Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Movie Review: Teeth (2007)

Vagina Dentata - 2007 horror movie TEETH

Written & Directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein

Jess Weixler...Dawn
Hale Appleman...Tobey
John Hensley...Brad

Young Dawn is pure of soul and chaste of body. She practices abstinence and teaches the same to adolescents as part of a Christian group called The Promise. Each follower of The Promise receives a ring as a symbol of their purity: "See the way that it wraps around your finger? That's to remind you to keep your gift wrapped. At least until you trade it in for that other ring."
She is so pure, in fact, that even when she masturbates (after which she feels great personal guilt), she does so to a fantasy of her wedding night.

Her parents are obviously proud of her, but not so much of her step-brother Brad, who is her polar opposite. While she is pure and innocent, he is dark and malevolent--with a curious fear of the vagina (he is, like Willie Dixon and Jim Morrison, a Back Door Man), and an unhealthy, Cruel Intentions-style fascination with Dawn.

After delivering a particularly effective speech, Dawn is introduced to Tobey, and the two of them immediately develop an attraction. Despite the impure thoughts that crop up in their minds, they continue to see each other and during a swim date, things heat up at the ol' swimming hole. Dawn tells Tobey to stop, but he refuses ("I haven't jerked off since Easter!"). Before you can say "No Means No", he withdraws from between her thighs to find that his once-proud manhood has been transformed into a bloody stump of shredded sausage.

But the violent vulva doesn't stop there. There are always plenty of men looking to defile and deflower a comely lass...and there are plenty of teeth to go around.

You see, Dawn has what is known in the Latin as Vagina Dentata--toothed vagina--a myth that dates back for thousands of years in a number of different cultures. It has, over time, evolved into an American urban legend and the punchline for many a dirty joke. In many of the stories, it takes a genuine hero to 'defeat the teeth' and turn the biter into a 'real woman'. These stories are sometimes seen as symbolic of a man's fear of a woman's sexuality, but classically, these were used as cautionary tales to warn about the dangers of sex and to discourage rape, but a skewed view of their moral lessons could easily be seen as promoting the opposite: that all a woman needs is a good, hard pounding--to be conquered by a real man.

So is Teeth a cautionary tale? Not quite. A rape-revenge thriller? Sort of. Pure exploitation? Not exactly. It really kind of defies definition: Imagine Abel Ferrera's Ms. 45 genetically spliced with Jonathon Yudis's Pervert!, and filtered through Brian Dannelly's Saved!, with a very dark, very comic tone running throughout.

Despite being an independent film, Teeth had impressive production values, good direction, and an impressive cast. Although it's never going to become the next Citizen Kane, it could quite easily become a cult classic in the near future now that it can find its audience on DVD. Very highly recommended to lovers of horror, revenge, and dark comedy.

FYI, Dr. Dean Edell recounts a genuine example of vagina dentata, in which a woman with a dermoid cyst (derived from the outer layers of embryonic flesh and are capable of growing hair, bones, etc.) developed a set of teeth that burst through the wall of her uterus. That'll make you think twice before you dip your wick.

Rated R
94 Minutes

Hump Day: Not as bad as we make it out to be, not as fun as it sounds.

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