Reviewed by: Chris

Horror films have long used myth and psychological demons as a basis for gruesomeness. Teeth takes an underused legend (vagina dentata - razor-sharp vaginal teeth, as referenced in such things as South Park episode Red Hot Catholic Love) and eats into the emergent late-night chick-flick gorefest market with gusto. Instead of vampires deflowering virgins we have a virgin de-penis-ing sleazebags.

Blonde high-schooler Dawn, a prominent representative of a chastity ring style movement, discovers she has unusual anatomical adaptations 'down there'. But after a sweetheart rapes her, she is, not unreasonably, convinced that the bloody stump he is left with is the result of her deformity. Notwithstanding this, she manages to attract a series of pervs who get their fingers or manhoods lopped off.

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Teeth has the potential to deliver biting social comment on the chastity movement which has infected American schools. In the classroom, Dawn's biology textbooks have stickers obscuring diagrams of the vulva - for 'obvious' reasons.

When a serial seducer drugs Dawn, then offers candlelight and romance to conclude the deed, he is mistakenly seen as a 'good guy' by our heroine. She somehow has successful sex with him, and willingly. She thinks he has fulfilled her dreams. But when he boasts to mates on the phone, she changes her mind and chops his willy off. If the punishment was a little heavy for just being a loudmouth, there is a sense of justice as we know his intentions had nothing to do with consent. But although Dawn feels remorse over a similarly lecherous gynaecologist, she has no compunction about the deliberate entrapment of those males she credits with evil intentions.

The vagina dentata myth is, as the film rightly points out, based on men's fear of sex. Compounding it with the modern craze by some youngsters for 'chastity' blurs the underlying psychology.

To its credit, Teeth handles the difficult acting challenges with considerable aplomb. Jess Weixler's Dawn is well-nuanced as she brings much needed humour, ambivalence and self-doubt to her character. That the film succeeds at all is remarkable, and this first feature by writer-director Mitchell Lichtenstein bodes well for his capabilities in handling difficult subject matter in the future commercial market. He breathes life into a well-worn genre, but at the expense of ditching his moral compass. While the film is entertaining, it fails to achieve its full potential. But it certainly beats yet another slasher re-run, with female protagonists enthusiastically chopping carrots.

Reviewed on: 21 Aug 2007
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Teeth packshot
Virgin's anatomical quirk means she bites off more than she can chew.
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Read more Teeth reviews:

Amber Wilkinson ****

Director: Mitchell Lichtenstein

Writer: Mitchell Lichtenstein

Starring: Jess Weixler, John Hensley, Vivienne Benesch, Lenny Von Dohlen, Ashley Springer, Josh Pais, Nicole Swahn, Julia Garro

Year: 2007

Runtime: 88 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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