"A group of people in a post-apocalyptic world fight to survive against a band of vicious cannibals."
That's all I knew about the After Dark Horrorfest offering Tooth and Nail before I sat down to experience the flick. Well, I also knew that I'd be treated to performances by Michael Madsen, Vinnie Jones, and Robert Carradine, but those were meant to be the icing on the cake. I mean, with a premise like "a group of people in a post-apocalyptic world fight to survive against a band of vicious cannibals," I'm already halfway in love with the flick.
Unfortunately the press notes seem to have some delusions of grandeur. The "post-apocalyptic world" of Tooth and Nail consists of precisely one location: A deserted hospital in Philadelphia. Writer / director Mark Young could have tossed the "post-apocalyptic" stuff into the trash and it wouldn't make the slightest bit of difference in the grand scheme of the flick. For what it's worth, Tooth and Nail is little more than a cheap-yet-ambitious remake of John Carpenter's Escape from New York ... with a gory touch of cannibalism, just to keep things juicy.
So deep inside this hospital (which has a dozen entry points and no discernible security) we have a thinly-drawn collection of "survivors." (Oh yeah, society went kerplooey after the planet ran out of petroleum. There's your political subtext. Enjoy.) We barely get to know the "tough guy," the "mean girl," the "silent kid," and the "brainy professor" before a gang of fur-wearing, heavy metal-ish cannibals descend on the hospital. And (obviously) they're hungry. Turns out the the "new girl" knows a bit about the invaders, but her dollops of exposition seem pointless at best: The loonies are coming, and they want to eat you.
Boasting a strangely unnecessary number of scenes in which people bicker about "who's in charge" (and a listless "twist" you'll see coming a mile away) Tooth and Nail adds very little to the cannibal crazies / survival horror sub-genre -- despite Young's admirable-yet-ineffective attempts at a post-apocalyptic world. At its best moments, Tooth and Nail exhibits a little mood and atmosphere (courtesy mainly of the unsettling location) and there are a few moments of grim intensity once the carnivores start swarming, but the flick is ultimately undone by a schizophrenic attitude. Hardcore horror is often followed by a bit of broad (and unwitting) humor. Madsen and Jones, for example, camp it up royally when it might have worked better to play it creepier.
Plus, just as the movie should be gearing up for its final slaughter, Young takes a moment so his leading lady can slather her face in war-paint. It's either a silly scene when the movie doesn't need it, or it's a serious scene that's unintentionally hilarious. Plus, worst of all, the cannibals are all wrong. This is not 1985, people! Flesh-hungry, axe-swinging post-apocalyptic cannibal freaks shouldn't look like rejects from a community college screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Not in 2007, really.
Still, if "a group of people in a post-apocalyptic world fight to survive against a band of vicious cannibals" sounds good to you, wait for Tooth and Nail to hit the video stacks. It's far from the worst After Dark Horrorfest offering I've ever seen.