Sunday, February 22, 2009

Horror Movie Review: Teeth


Starring: Jess Weixler, John Hensley, Josh Pais, Hale Appleman, Lenny von Dohlen, and Ashley Springer

Written and Directed by: Mitchell Lichtenstein

Production Company: Teeth

Release Date: January 19, 2007 at the Sundance Film Festival

Awards: Mitchell Lichtenstein won a Special Jury Prize at the Gerardmer Film Festival and Jess Weixler won a Special Jury Prize for a Juicy and Jaw-Dropping Performance at the Sundance Film Festival.

Let's face it fellas...things are getting dangerous in the horror movie realm for the masculine members of the species and 2007 proved to be particularly dangerous. Both Storm Warning and Teeth debuted at the Cannes and Sundance film festivals respectively that year and both contained variations on the myth of vagina dentata...women with toothed vaginas. In Storm Warning, Nadia Fares's character creates a protective metal device to prevent her rape, but Jess Weixler's character Dawn has a bit more literal manifestation of the vagina dentata myth in Teeth.

Dawn a leading abstinence advocate in her town. She believes passionately in abstaining from sex until marriage, but when she meets new student Tobey, her dedication gets challenged as she starts to fantasize about him. Tobey is also trying to maintain abstinence as a born-again virgin, but during a moment in which he is overcome with sexual desire, he attempts to rape Dawn, shouting, "I haven't jerked off since Easter!" He finds out, however, there are worse things than not jerking off as Dawn's vagina teeth cut short his sexual assault.

As Dawn comes to grips with her vagina dentata, she seems doomed to encounter only asshole men including an immoral ob/gyn, another teen who loves her from afar, and her polar opposite step-brother. Each tries to take advantage of her, in some way, but finds that he's bitten off more than he can chew, so to speak.

Interestingly, Dawn grows to control her vagina dentata and embrace the power she now has over disreputable men. Jess Weixler is impressive in her ability to show Dawn's transformation from the innocent, virtuous girl to the strong, scary heroinne she becomes. She carries herself differently and her facial expressions change as the uncertain, uncomfortable looks become replaced by strength and determination.

Vagina dentata, as we learn in the movie, is found in several mythologies around the world and used to illustrate the dangers of sex and rape. It also maintained male dominance because inevitably a hero would come along and detooth the vagina and make the woman his wife. However, in Teeth with Dawn, the toothed one, as our hero, it alters the symbolism. And with Lichtenstein's twist that she grows to embrace her sexuality, it becomes less of a cautionary tale about sex. Lichtenstein's tale doesn't exactly promote abstinence since the abstinence group begins to look more and more like a cult with chanting and everything. Instead, Teeth reminds us the power of female sexuality and women should not fear it, but master it, lest men of the world master it for them.

The movie is very entertaining, although a bit slow in the beginning. It reflects the changes in Dawn, another sign that the tale is not anti-sex, but pro-sexual responsibility. The beginning is kind of dull, honestly, as we watch two awkward teenagers dance around their feelings for each other, but becomes more interesting as Dawn finds herself to explore her sexuality.

It is, as you can imagine, a dark comedy. You won't be laughing out loud, but you'll chuckle inside, especially once Dawn takes control of her life. And don't worry, the credits assure us that "No man was harmed in the making of this film."

Be careful out there, men. If movies like these are any indication, it's no longer a man's world. But at least it's entertaining.

Related Trailers

John Hensley featured in Shutter.

John Pais also stars in Scary Movie 3.

Lenny von Dohlen will appear in the upcoming sci-fi action thriller Downstream.

Asley Springer appears in the thriller Anamorph.

Storm Warning starring Nia Feres, with movie poster depicting her artificial vagina dentata.

1 comment:

kelloggs said...

I saw this movie a while back, and was expecting way more of a horror film instead of a dark comedy like you said. I should have known better, with it debuting at Cannes and all. Anyway, I enjoyed it as well.