Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Moronic Shall Inherit the Earth

When a film’s keywords include post apocalypse and cannibalism, it’s bound to be of interest to a certain fan constituent. Add the always entertaining Vinnie Jones, the always interestingly odd Michael Madsen, the always nerd king Robert Carradine, and the always welcome convenience of Netflix Instant Watch and you earn a quick viewing by me.

Unfortunately, Tooth and Nail--a 2007 thriller featured in the 8 Films To Die For After Dark Horrorfestl--never lives up to its promising presence, mostly because it contains characters devoid of even a peanut shell worth of common sense.

Quick Plot: Three years after the world’s supply of gasoline has run dry, scattered Foragers (the good guys, because they are pretty) and Rovers (villains who shop at Thunderdome) are all that’s left. Led by “The Professor” (Carradine), the Foragers hold up in a roomy hospital, occasionally roller skating, aimlessly, having fully clothed sex, and exchanging blank glances at one another seeped in quiet worry. Their biodome-esque existence gets shaken when a few of their scouts return with Neon (Rachel Miner) who, aside from being the stupidest named character in recent cinema, also brings unwelcome news that the Rovers are hot on her ponytail.

I often complain about IMDB message boards because typically, they remind me of a future first glimpsed at in Idiocracy. Following Tooth and Nail, I randomly popped by the forums and was surprised to find this thoughtful post by mysterious user pbohn1:

“I've seen this in other posts, so I thought I'd make it my own thread. I'm so sick of "Suspension of disbelief" being used as an excuse for lazy writing. Just because it's a movie doesn't mean that you can just decide to throw all logic and reason out the window and then simply say "It doesn't have to make sense or be logical. It's a movie." That's just some bogus justification for "We couldn't actually come up with a plausable (sic) end of world scenario that hasn't been done before." 

I forgive Dawn of the Dead for its female characters not cutting off their ponytails when being chased by grabby grabby zombies, just as I give a pass to Bryce Dallas Howard’s complimentary lip gloss in Terminator Salvation. There’s a certain point that I can sit back and enjoy a film, despite its inconsistencies or plot holes. When every character onscreen, however, seems incapable of doing a single thing right...sigh.

Surviving an apocalypse is tough stuff (I will probably not make it). You have to be brutal, strong, smart, and disciplined. In other words, if you know that a gang of murderers is heading to your home base at sundown, would you (or, for that matter, your mentally retarded turtle) wait until late dusk to scurry to a hiding spot? When one of your people is missing and a bucket of blood is all that’s left, do you “go looking for him” outside, sans weapons, with your hands in your pockets and a stupid smile on your face?

Tooth and Nail is filled with moments like these, dumb character choices that make you root for their deaths in the name of protecting the human race’s last scraps of intelligence. There are indeed some interesting things going on (despite a ripped-from Mad Max premise straight down to the frizzy haired mute child) but it’s hard to stay involved in a film when you just want to put its entire cast into special needs classes.

High Points
Though none of the cannibal raids quite live up to their potential, director Mark Young does demonstrate some skill at building a tense and-soon-the-darkness setup

I haven’t seen much of Michael Kelly since his surprisingly effective turn in Dawn of the Dead, and he’s a welcome--if underused--presence here

Low Points
Anybody else bothered by this line?
“Within three years more than two-thirds of the world's population had starved to death, frozen to death, or slaughtered each other. The American dream became the American nightmare.”
What is the logical connection between “the world’s population” and “The American dream”? It just feels like lazy writing, a narrative clump of cliches trying to make Big Statements that don’t even link.

Lessons Learned
When planning on annihilating a cannibal gang, always take the time to savage yourself out with tribal facepaint. It makes all the difference in your stab strength.

If your evening’s plans include eluding a band of violent cannibals indoors, you’re probably better off replacing clunky heels with soft-toed shoes
Keep a can of sulfuric acid nearby at all times. It’s way more effective than a rape whistle
Young actresses: never agree to a participate in a sex scene with Rider Strong. His porn-ready name not withstanding, these moments generally feel awkward on camera and lead to your inevitable onscreen death
I’m not necessarily discouraging a Tooth and Nail watch, providing it costs little to no money and you’re already an apocalyptic fan. It’s a messy, uneven film not really sure of itself but there is a neat (if fairly obvious) twist and some enjoyable giggling by a mowhawked Vinnie Jones along the way. If you can get by the fact that everybody onscreen is an idiot, you may be okay.


  1. Yeah, this one seemed like a wasted premise to me, for most of the reasons you listed. Glad you mentioned Michael Kelly, though, he's one of my favorite recent "that guy!" actors.

    Good work!

  2. Thanks The Mike! A premise like this is always guaranteed to be watchable, but some of the plotting and details was just so mindless. I did dig Michael Kelly though! He's definitely becoming one of those minor bonuses in random cinema.

  3. It gets points for Vinnie Jones-amateur gardener, but otherwise looks to be utter shit. Thank you for, yet again, taking the bullet for us (or rusty implement, as it were).

  4. For the most part I feel like people give the After Dark movies a hard time. By that I mean a lot of people complain about how bad they are. I don't feel that way for the series as a whole, but there are some bad films in there. This was one of the worst for me.

    This one came from the first set I got to see in the theater. I was really excited about going, and I had a good time. I hated this movie for the same reasons you listed. Two years later and I still remember being baffled by the "good guys" waiting until that last possible moment to look for a place to hide. With all day to do so, you would think they would have time.

    Maybe what baffled me even more was the friend I went with actually liked this movie. She thought it was one of the better films that we had watched up to that point. Figure that one out.

  5. The AfterDark fest is a consistent mixed bag o' film, with the occasional great (Lake Mungo), very good (Mulberry Street), or decent enough (Wicked Little Things) pick poking out of what are otherwise unremarkable and sometimes awful movies.

    Glad to hear you agree on this one. It has some neat ideas, but I just can't stay with a film that's so devoid of common sense.

    I bet your friend is the kind of person who liked The Blind Side!

    And Damocles-remind me to get a tetanus shot. I take a lot of those rusty hooks in the name of readers like you!

  6. Yeah, this was one of the two I caught in the theater(the other was The Abandoned)--thought this was pretty mediocre.

    The Abandoned was better, but 15 minutes too long.

  7. Funny, someone else was just recommending The Abandoned as one of the better After Dark entries. Good to know it's at least an improvement!

  8. Sheesh... I guess I'm only gonna give this one a go if I'm drunk enough not to care.

  9. Why do the bad guys always start dressing in animal furs within 5 minutes after the apocalypse? Are they anti-PETA people or just stupid. Whenever I see this garb in a P/A film, I always think of the scene in Omega Man with Chuck Heston dropping into a clothing store to get a new track suit. C'mon Michael Madsen, I'm sure it would be a lot easier to drop by a deserted Sears than to kill, skin and sew your new wardrobe. Agree that the movie had a few tense hide-in-the-dark scenes, but the rest was lame including the ending which I've scene before in recent horror.

  10. Atroxion: drunk is a great way to view this film. Vinnie Jones will always make you toast, and you can easily make a drinking game out of chugging whenever a character does something stupid. I'm drunk already!

    Shiftless: Good question, especially considering another big beef I had with this film was the fact that the Rovers could probably have been hunting deer much more easily than hiding humans. And clearly, they DID hunt some form of animal for fashion. Typical. Use the fur, toss out the meat. PETA should investigate this.

    But also, I really do like the idea of Vinnie JOnes and Michael Madsen sitting around the campfire, sewing up parkas and gossiping about all the cute boys.

  11. Well, I'm not sure if your review swayed me one way or the other, but I think I will still give it a whirl since I do love me an empty future filled with gray and no hope.

    I added it to my queue a while back based on the Apocalyptic premise, so I'm glad to know what I'm getting into first, especially with moronic characters, something that can truly kill a film for me.

    Great review, Emily, and I hope to bump into you at the Thunderdome etsy shop one day!

  12. Before I forget, what's with the alias? I know it's you, Whitesuzaka!

    Since it's an instant watch, I won't dissuade you from a view, mostly so I can read your review and see if you agree on the distracting stupidity of the characters.

    I love my Thunderdome etsy shop, but I really wish the shipping rates weren't so high. I hate that we have to pay for the water and inns for those horse-and-rider deliveries.