With her hormones raging, dedicated virgin Dawn (Weixler) is already struggling with her sexual urges when she discovers a significant further complication: that inside her vagina lies a razor-toothed mouth that bites anything that comes near it. Cue a sexual awakening with a difference...
Imagine, for a second, a David Cronenberg remake of Pretty In Pink. Or perhaps Nora Ephron’s I Spit On Your Grave. Writer-director Mitchell Lichtenstein (son of pop artist Roy) must have noodled with mismatches like these when devising Teeth, a gruesome yet sweet, genital-obssessed yet brainy horror-comedy that’s one of the year’s most interesting, if uneven, indies.
The premise - a virginal hottie discovers that she suffers from the mythical vagina dentate (“toothed vagina” in Latin), castrating any man who penetrates her - promises a certain demographic undreamt-of quantities of nudity. The result, though, will have them squirming throughout.
A witty subversion of the traditionally male-biased horror genre, the movie has produced some hilariously moronic reactions within the online community since it premiered to considerable acclaim two Sundances ago. Take this prime chestnut from Arrow In The Head, which rages that the men in the movie are “too fucking dumb and shallow for us to retain any sympathy for them”, before sagely observing, “The last time I saw so many dicks lopped off was when a handful of my friends proved to be pussy-whipped bitches the moment they entered steady relationships.”
In fact, Lichtenstein’s female-empowerment perspective is the movie’s most successful aspect, with Jess Weixler’s Dawn outstanding as she moves from outright terror at her condition to a growing appreciation of the benefits of it - a young woman literally able to use sex as a weapon.
The problem is that it never really goes anywhere, a repetitive series of severed penises just tossed about - apologies - willy nilly. Lichtenstein, meanwhile, has precious little tonal discipline: one minute we’re in Napoleon Dynamite-style nerd romance, the next Heathers-like pitch-black high school comedy, and then back into exploitation flick.
As a calling card, Teeth has already served Lichtenstein well - he’s currently shooting domestic drama Happy Tears with Parker Posey and Demi Moore - but in box office terms it’s uncertain exactly whom his debut is aimed at. Although, unquestionably, Teeth does pull off one unequivocal success: it’s the worst date movie ever made.
Funny, sweet, bloody and more likely to put you off sex than a double-bill of Irreversible and Last House On The Left.