FEARNET Movie Review - Teeth


...her privates possess a decidedly unsavory set of dental features, the phrase "sex as a weapon" begins to take on a whole new meaning.

By Scott Weinberg

Here's reason #53 why I love horror movies so much: Here we have a very smart and very insightful film that dares to cover a topic (the mysteries of female sexuality, particularly where one virginal teenager is concerned) that very few movies tackle -- but the only way one could even approach material like this ... is through the magical combination of dark humor and Cronenbergian "body horror." If the same themes were covered in a drama, the movie could be disastrous. As a full-on comedy, even worse. But when you mask a few serious issues and challenging concepts into a package that feels like a (very) R-rated Rod Serling story, well then you're using the genre to its full potential. Forget "horror movie," Mitchell Lichtenstein's Teeth is one of the best movies I've seen in a few years. Regardless of what sort of label you want to put on it.

From my original review: If you get over the rather distasteful subject matter and focus on what's beneath the surface, you'll find a flick that's got a whole lot to say about young women and their fear of burgeoning sexuality, society's general distaste (and, let's face it, fear) of the female sex organ, and the ways in which men do a serious disservice to womankind by treating their "naughty bits" as if they're something to be ashamed of. Teeth covers all this ground (and a whole lot more), and I suspect it's more open-minded and honest than most of what passes for "sex ed" these days. This movie offers enough meaty subtext to fill three semesters and it does so in a shocking, humorous and strangely compassionate fashion.

Stellar newcomer Jess Weixler plays young Dawn, a passionate supporter of teenage celibacy who's generally dismissed as a harmless little goody-two-shoes by most of her high school peers. But when those "icky" urges hit Dawn in a big way, she quickly discovers that she's quite a bit ... different than other girls. And not in a particularly good way. Toss a dying mother and a vile step-brother into the mix, and you just know things aren't going to end well. To divulge much more in the way of plot synopsis would be doing the film a grave disservice, as this comedy/horror hybrid has more than a few jolts, jumps and unpredictable twists up its sleeve. Those who would dismiss the film based solely on its premise, well, they probably wouldn't really like Teeth anyway.

I'm of the opinion that audacity is something to be admired in today's cinematic world, and Teeth has audacity to spare. Fortunately for the brave movie-watcher, the film is also very smart, slick and entirely unashamed to throw a few nasty shocks into the equation ... if that's what it takes to get the point across. As Dawn begins to realize that her privates possess a decidedly unsavory set of dental features, the phrase "sex as a weapon" begins to take on a whole new meaning. Lichtenstein bravely refuses to shy away from the sticky questions and icky repercussions, which elevates Teeth beyond the label of "interesting curiosity" and right into the realm of "brazen brilliance."

The movie earned a good deal of buzz, a few loyal fans, and just as many detractors when it played at Sundance '07, and while I definitely reviewed the film positively, it (like the recent Inside and Frontier(s)) definitely feels more satisfying upon repeat viewings. For example, I distinctly remember Teeth delivering in a horror sense, but I'd sort of forgotten how sly and dryly funny the movie is. And if I was smitten with leading lady Jess Weixler the first time around, you can consider me doubly smitten now. Not only does the girl deliver a great performance in an obviously difficult role, but she does so with a lot of wit and subtlety too. When she's the good girl, she never becomes a mean-spirited parody of "abstinence girls," and when she starts to get a little bit ... sexier, there's still a youthful innocence that keeps the character sympathetic. It's pretty easy to forget we're dealing with a character who has teeth in her vagina.

What's most amusingly ironic about Teeth is that is has a lot of themes and ideas that would absolutely appeal to women who would NEVER watch a gory horror movie with a premise like this one. (My mom, for example, would love the movie if she watched it. But she won't.) But high praise is due to the filmmakers for sticking with their decidedly unique (albeit potentially inaccessible) vision and delivering a fantastic little concoction that reminds us how many different things the "horror movie" can be.

And hey, the DVD is pretty well-stocked, too! We all know I'm a pretty big fan of Dimension Extreme's output (well, not ALL of it), and this might be their finest release yet. Mr. Lichtenstein contributes a fine audio commentary, but (as is often the case with solo tracks) a co-chatter would have helped immeasurably. Still, the commentary should give the fans plenty of good verbal ammunition should Teeth ever come up in dinner conversation. (Unlikely, I know.) Also included is a small batch of deleted scenes (with optional commentary), a tight and insightful "making of" featurette that offers some very colorful thoughts from various cast and crew members, the original trailer and a TV spot.

Damn good stuff, and if I'm making an early list of 2008's best horror DVDs (including quality of the actual movie), then Teeth is definitely in the top five.