Directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein
Starring Jess Weixler, John Hensley, Hale Appleman, Frank Curcio, Julia Garro
Release date: May 5, 2008
Here is an over-the-top (and that’s heavily sugar coating it) film that takes such an unparalleled view on an issue that would undoubtedly leave young men of all ages in a frenzy of terror and sheer horror. These feelings would mount to such an extremity that they won’t be able to control any of their actions any more. Unfortunately Teeth doesn’t travel that road; which could’ve made a more interesting film. Instead it takes a detour to concentrate wholeheartedly on a young woman and her deranged transformation to womanhood. Director Mitchell Lichtenstein treads dangerous waters that with the slightest inch of movement could cause his movie to hit the shelves at local pornography stores under the genre of “fetishes.”
As the movie opens, the camera swoops down past two gigantic smoke stackers puffing out serpents of black smoke which come courtesy from a power plant behind a suburban home. Eventually the camera finds its way to the suburban home and nestles itself comfortably within the neighborhood. A husband and his wife recline in their front yard while their two young kids play in a kiddy pool. Before you can say “Lichtenstein” he warps this too perfect suburbanite image into a nightmare with profound implications. From here on out the movie never sees the tranquility of ‘just lounging in the yard’ again as Lichtenstein paints the rest of his film with unbearable black humor and grotesque acts of horror.
The comparisons to ’50s sci-fi B-horror films are undeniable. Teeth can fit right into a grindhouse feature. It tells a story that can’t be told comfortably in public: Dawn is the unfortunate victim to a myth labeled as vagina dentata. A myth so outrageous that you laugh out loud when you hear that it means Dawn’s vagina has carnivorous chompers and fends off unwanted male intruders.
She is played believably by Jess Weixler, who won a special jury prize at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. She plays the chick in high school who is “saving herself” until marriage, which in turn leads to her unpopularity amongst the cruel high school population. Nothing she cringes more at than the fact of premarital sex and she even emphasizes how strongly she feels to the Promise Ring members, a group of young kids who swear to remain chaste until marriage and wear red rings to prove it.
Nothing in the movie is more blatant than the cold hard fact that Jess and her family turned out the way they did due to the waste that is constantly pumping out from the twin smoke stackers. Jess’ father is weak, her mother has cancer and her step-brother is a heavy-metal lunatic who has had a certain fetish for quite some time. Lichtenstein wants us to come to our senses and realize that such a mutation happened only because of the chemicals this suburban family was sniffing. A farm in the middle of nowhere could’ve let this family live a life that’s normal.
Teeth has a nice ring to it and could make for a decent campy film. Instead Lichtenstein abandons the fascinating turn it could churn out for the easy way out: a vengeance porn film that doesn’t shine a light on any other topic. When Dawn’s boyfriend forces himself on her she then comprehends what “gift” she has and she uses it at her disposal. After the count of severed penis’ skyrockets through the roof, the joke becomes old quick and we come to expect what will happen next; scene after scene of Dawn’s carnivorous fangs devouring to shreds a helpless male’s God given gift. The only thing blissful in this film is a quick glimpse of the good old days when gasoline prices were sliced in half by today’s standards.
DVD Special Features
Six deleted scenes: No scene is longer than 2 minutes and no scene is worthy of being placed within the film. There’s an option here to watch these scenes with director Mitchell Lichtenstein’s commentary. There’s one specific one that has a some juice to it and it’s the one where Dawn and her friends window shop within a mall. Surrounded by sexual ads and she tries not to look at them. Never does he give any ounce of encouragement for these deleted scenes, as he always states “I don’t know why I even filmed this scene.” So if he doesn’t care a less about these scenes why should we?
Making of Teeth: Here is where audiences will get their history lesson on vagina dentata, the myth that haunts woman every so often. We learn of its origins and how the myth came to have a profound impact on today’s society. Also the production team of the movie discusses the use of clothing, art direction, and lighting (kudos to the art direction team who makes the movie look nostalgic in a way). But the most interesting segment in this special feature is the breakdown of the “Promise Ring” pep rallies that Dawn initiates to a crowd of high school students in the movie.
Commentary by Mitchell Lichtenstein: The track features Lichtenstein himself in a mostly dull yet at times mildly interesting commentary. He plugs his brother for writing most of the movies background music while explaining how the two smoke towers play a vital role in the film. Enough already Mitchell! We get the point. Where is Jess Weixler’s commentary on the film. Now that right there would be worth the price of watching this commentary. We would all love to hear her view points on the sorrowful and terrible vagina dentata myth. Rather we are stuck with Lichtenstein’s inability to make anything interesting. Even with one of the weirdest plots in the history of movies he still manages to turn the whole commentary sour. With the film pushing the envelope to the brink, this commentary track sounds as if it belongs to a dull Life/Time movie.