Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Were I still in college, I imagine I’d write what would seem to be a Really Important Research Paper on the thematic depths of Teeth. True feminist horror! A woman scorning before she can be scorned! The perfect slumber party feature! Fun for the whole blended family!
At the crochety age of 28, Teeth is probably *slightly* less mind blowing and charming than it would have been were I younger or less versed in self-aware cinema. Still, this 2007 film is absolutely good-humored, refreshingly smart, and giddily disgusting.
Quick Plot: “I’ll show you mine, you show me yours” ends as I imagine may often be the case, in a little prick o’ blood (my punning is Crypt Keepertastic!). The bloody index finger belongs to a bratty young Brad, a hellion of sorts who grows up harnessing an icky crush on his kid stepsister Dawn (Jess Weixler).

Flashing forward 15 years, Dawn now spends some afternoons giving perky pep talks to a promise ring-wearing club of creepily young children, all vowing together to save their most special gift (psst: the one between their legs) for marriage. Fresh-faced with a constant smile, Dawn makes Marcia Brady look like a harlot but things begin to change when she meets puppy eyed born again virgin Tobey.

Apparently, G-rated dating is really difficult (possibly because activities are restricted to G-rated movies involving talking animals) and before long, Tobey is on top of the protesting Dawn, their plastic chastity rings entwined in pain.

Two very different types of pain, as we soon learn. As Dawn resists, Tobey lets out a Fay Wrayish scream. Turns out Dawn has more than well-toned Kegel muscles in her special place, and this unseen force is sharp, hungry, and very in tune with women’s rights.
Although anyone who’s read a word about Mitchell Lichtenstein’s Teeth knows its premise, the film takes a surprising amount of time to reveal what’s underneath Dawn’s always zipped jeans. While parts of the buildup feel a little slow, this works well to develop Dawn as a young woman more complicated than the squeaky clean caricature she’s in danger of being.  Her gift/curse is all the more interesting in light of her frustrated sexuality, something actress Jess Weixler brings out with a fantastic balance of humor and weight.

If Teeth has a biting issue (get it? pun), it’s the not-entirely-taut second act details. There’s one possibly dead body floating around an eden-like forest and a dying mother whose presence is shaking up an already fragile family dynamic, but it’s a little hard to fully latch onto Dawn’s dilemma when we’re not sure precisely what direction it’s meant to head.
That being said, it’s easy to like Teeth and on an eventual second viewing, even adore. Both men and women will occasionally be crossing their legs with the same speed sparked by certain scenes in Antichrist.  This time, however, we can do with with a smile. 

And nervous chuckle.
High Points
I didn’t realize how much I was enjoying Teeth until, oddly enough, I reached the gynecologist scene, which is pitch perfect in both humor and horror. The way it begins in  a comfortable and kind place before slowly slipping into Hand That Rocks the Cradle territory is staged with such a careful touch that makes the audience relax, squirm, then cheer
Lead Weixler is in just about every scene and she does a damn fine job of balancing cavity inducing sweetness with a surprisingly grounded sense of growing up

Low Points
While I thoroughly enjoyed the development of Dawn’s character, a lot of viewers may be less thrilled with a nearly 45 minute first act more in line with Saved! than Saw
Lessons Learned
There’s way too much petting in PG13 rated films

In case of virgin seduction, always keep an economy sized pack of votive candles on hand
Be honest with your gynecologist. Really honest.

This is the kind of modern dark comedy that makes genre fans smile from beginning to end. At times, its tongue-in-cheek humor feels a tad too cute, but three severed penises, a solid and appealing star, and a snappy script make Teeth a film well worth checking out. Fans of Ginger Snaps will see perfect double feature potential, a sort of sexual empowerment of teenage girldom with more genital blood (a different KIND, of course). Currently on Instant Watch, the DVD is quite extra heavy, with a featurette, deleted scenes, and director commentary, all making a purchase more than endorsed by me. 


  1. I still have yet to watch this one. Good review Emily.

  2. I did a brief write up on this film as well, leaning towards the feminist but forgetting its humor. Probably because I found almost every, single male in the Teeth dispicable. And that was probably executed purposely but the gyno exam did kind of have a homecoming Carrie-like feeling to it.

    I loved its flexibility because it can be easily literal and figurative, metaphoric and symbolic, all at once.

    And my favorite debate: is the woman (feminine) monstrous or is the society from wence she comes?

  3. Thanks R.D.! I'll be curious to hear your thoughts. It's an incredibly likable film.

    Ashlee: Just read your writeup and it opens up a lot of questions. You made me think of Mick Garris's not-so-loved Masters of Horror episode Chocolate, where Henry Lucas (all grown up, of course) experiences all the sensations felt by a woman. There was something that stuck with me later when I thought back to what it must feel like, as a man, to experience sex from a female point of view.

    Every man, save for the stepfather who has a different sort of weakness, is hysterically awful in one way or another, and that becomes increasingly more obvious as the film goes on. The gynecologist scene works so well in that regard because it starts off so innocently. I absolutely loved that because it really did capture a woman in the most vulnerable position she can put herself, being violated in a truly horrid way, and taking it all back.

    I would be curious to see a general breakdown of what male and female viewers think of as the 'villain' in Teeth. It's important to note that none of her victims die (as far as we know; Tobey's whereabouts are never explained, right?) making her more the kind of superhero that ties guys up for the cops than an I Spit On Your Grave-esque avenging angel. Instead, she marks each one. I can't imagine any guy with a reattached member will function quite the same, and whether he still practices medicine or not, the doctor will always have the scar right in front of him as a warning of what he dared to do.

    I can only imagine how things went down (dah! another pun) for the old man at the end...

  4. as a genre fan, all i did was roll my eyes at this movie. after hearing good things from cinema diabolica way back when, i was excited to see it, but found no character worth liking.

    plus i hate that eyebrow dude from nip tuck anyway

    i didn't laugh once and just thought that every single male in the movie essentially wanting to rape the main character was very lame. the gynecologist scene in particular almost had me abandoning ship

    it's fine making a strong central female character... especially at the expense of male characters. but when you hate everyone involved, and the same little "i'm gonna get in your vag whether you like it or not" mini story retold 4 or 5 times just got tired

  5. oh, and good review :)

    sorry to just shit and run

  6. Thanks Loaf!

    I can totally see someone really hating this movie, because yes, it's blatant black comedy that can easily come off as annoying. I found Jess Weixler's Dawn to be genuinely appealing and didn't really realize it until the scene towards the end with her mom in the hospital. She had that Tracey Flick cuteness, which started off irksome, but some of her more honest stuff later on brought out an actual person, at least for me.

    As far as the male characters go, yes, they were all over-the-top would-be rapists (save for her stepfather), but I accepted it as simply one more artificial layer over the story. There just wasn't time to give Dawn a worthy suitor (perhaps one day there can be a Hanzo the Razor crossover) and hey, some of the guys were worse than others (like the high school nerd who just wanted to get laid).

  7. i think i am particularly tough on horror (this is kind of horror, right?) films, as it really has not been a genre i have been able to personally take seriously for years and years.

    if a film like this does not hit in my brain on all cylinders from the get-go, unfortunately, the faults i find just start snowballing and i get increasingly frustrated.

    not sure what it is

  8. Dearest Loaf,

    I share your sense of rigid standards, only I apply mine to comedies. When it comes to horror, I love the genre too much, and thus often allow a lot of crud to earn passing grades simply by entertaining me well enough. A bad comedy, on the other hand, goes on my hit list.

    Oddly enough, I consider Teeth far more black comedy than horror, as there's never really a moment of genuine fright. On that level, I thought Teeth worked extremely well. The film made me think, but it never gave me personally any reason to really be afraid.

  9. maybe it's because literally nothing outside of reality video frightens me in a film, as where a loud fart in a movie can make me laugh

    what can i say? i have the mentality of a 14 year old way too often :)

  10. don't get me wrong though - i probably hate more comedies than horror films haha

  11. I saw this a while back now and I liked it, didn't love it. It had a few moments, but I really don't remember much about it, so that may say something about the film for me in a way.

    One thing I think about with that film almost immediately is the portrayal of males. I personally do not think it's insulting to me as a man, but it's always a bit off putting to have a film like Anti Christ (for example) be called misogynistic, when a film like Teeth is not looked at as misandrous.

    Like I say, it's not insulting to me that the male characters are this way as it serves a purpose to the film, which is the case with a film where the gender is swapped.

  12. As you know, I find Antichrist far more offensive to men than women, but that's just my interpretation. It's funny because I was just talking about a film I watched (can't remember which) where all the women were so shrill and awful that I felt THAT was misogynist. Teeth is kind of like that towards men. All are pretty flawed in over the top ways and want one thing only. If the film was played straighter, then it could be offensive but in this case, I just found it funny.

    Kinda like farts.