When I first told Horror Cult Films I wanted to review Teeth I got asked if it was the one where a lady’s private region ‘grew jaws’. Indeed, Teeth is much like the surprisingly tame Human Centipede in that regardless of whether one has seen it or not, they should at least know the premise. As with The Human Centipede, Teeth manages to sell this premise by playing it, for the most part, entirely straight. And as with it’s brethren, should the movie treat the premise as a joke, or give on too many nudges and winks, then the effect would be heavily diminished. The filmmakers take it seriously so we don’t have to. Simultaneously, nor are they so po-faced that it watches like a melodrama. Simply put, Teeth is what it is.
Of course comparisons with The Human Centipede only go so far. While The Human Centipede gave us a creepy German doctor, with a lab of all sorts of odds and entrails, Teeth offers us the premise of a teenage girl going through puberty. As with other forms of teen horror, such as Ginger Snaps or Carrie (even Teen Wolf) this trans formative stage in life allows for an extended metaphor about someone finding out something new and frightening about their bodies. In this case we have the rather beautiful Dawn (well played by Jess Weixler) who is well known around school for one thing, and one thing only; her special ring. Yep, abstinence is the top of her agenda. The move’s early scenes depict a wholesome and un-sexual gal who seems to spend an unnaturally high amount of time talking with her friends about all the boys she doesn’t want to have sex with, and going to watch kids’ films at the cinema. However, it’s not long before she meets local geek chic abstainer Tobey (Hale Appleman), and soon the hormones are a-flying.
Alas, as depicted above, Dawn is an unfortunate girl in that most men she meets want to have sex with her. Whether she wants it or not. Of course Mother Nature has well equipped her for this recurring problem, and after a slow but unavoidable build up, her toothed vagina is treating male genitals like Pringles. Sure, the whole thing is ridiculous – but again, by not playing it as a comedy it’s easy to get into the character (pun not intended). Her plight is entirely grounded in this very relatable puberty and virginity framework, meaning anyone that’s ever felt teenage awkwardness, or sexual curiosity, can relate to this on some level. And boy is there curiosity. Literally every guy Dawn meets wants to have their wicked way with her. Note that this list includes her step brother Brad (John Hensley).
After an opening, that weirdly hints at her abnormality being a product of a local nuclear station, we see a happy young Dawn sitting in the paddling pool with him, before biting his all too inquisitive little finger. And I don’t mean with her mouth. Needless to say this moment will mark his character for the remainder of the movie (quite humorously resulting in an obsession for anal vs. vaginal intercourse). Brad is a man obsessed. Despite this major defect in her character (plus her being his step sister) he is very much besotted by her. But then this is something not entirely unexpected from a man that calls his dog Mother. Speaking of mothers, Brad’s dysfunctional relationship with Dawn’s mum and his own dad provides a subplot that builds up to him as the movie’s ultimate protagonist. Unsurprisingly, after a nerd, a jock and a doctor have all lost a part of themselves to Dawn, the final conflict is not a traditional Hollywood one.
Whether this will be the movie for you or not depends on if this plot sounds an enjoyable one. As soon as I first heard about Teeth, I knew I wanted to see it, reasoning that the very worst a movie with this plot could be is entertaining. It obviously doesn’t mean you’ll like it though. It’s unashamedly about entertainment; this is very much a movie rather than a film. Thus if one’s definition of entertainment doesn’t involve Vagina Dentata (will leave you to Google that one) then this will not meet your tastes. However, if you want to see a black comedy horror about a tuppence with teeth then I couldn’t recommend this one any higher. And I don’t mean that ironically. How open you are to liking the movie, and finding it fun, depends on how much that basic plot appeals to you – even if it’s just in a sniggery way. But it’s not so bad it’s good. High concept movies need to be summarize-able in a single sentence, and their value is defined by the extent to which they do this simple premise justice (Snakes on a Plain comes to mind, along with every recent giant-creature feature as examples where this is not the case). However, in the case of Teeth I was not in the least disappointed. A movie about a cannibalistic vagina has no right to be this watchable.