Friday, June 13, 2008


TEETH (**1/2) is one of the kookiest movies I've ever seen. Meet Dawn, a cute, peppy, virginal high school girl played by the amazing Jess Weixler. She's not your typical high school girl. She's got...well...ummm...a...little problem. Seems that Dawn suffers from the famous myth of vagina dentata, or, in layperson's terms, she's got teeth in her most private of areas. Writer/director Mitchell Lichtenstein has created a weird, strange, bizarre film that while intermittently entertaining, never finds a consistent tone to tell his whacked-out story in. Is this a horror-thriller? It's certainly creepy and gory. Is this a black-hearted high school satire? It is very funny at times. Is this a uniquely strange coming-of-age story? Dawn's predicament certainly elicits viewer sympathy. The main problem with TEETH is that Lichtenstein, while talented, isn't talented enough to bring all of these story elements together into a cohesive whole. The film works from scene-to-scene, and at times is laugh-out-loud funny, while also being off-puttingly disgusting. No doubt, there will be some men who will clutch their family jewels all throughout this perverse movie.

Dawn first realizes her situation at an early age. She's in a kiddie pool with her soon-to-be step-brother who casually tells her: "you saw let's see yours." He ends up wishing that he didn't ask to see (and then touch) her in her nether region. Cut to about 12 years later and Dawn is now a pretty and prim high schooler who has taken a vow of abstinence. She leads a group of virgins who tour other schools proclaiming the benefits of abstinence till marriage. Of course all of the guys in her school want to sleep with her. And they also enjoy ridiculing her. With her hormones raging she ends up developing a crush on one of her fellow virginal group members. Things don't go well when they try to experiment with bumpin' uglies. Her step brother Brad, the darkly funny John Hensley from NIP/TUCK, has been sexually fantasizing over her for years, still having never fully recovered from the traumatic moment in the kiddie pool. Her mother is sick and confined to her bed. Her step-father is a dunce. So what's a girl like Dawn to do? Horrified by her mutation, she goes to an OBGYN for the first time; not the best idea. And when her step brother demands to get a full peek at what's under her dress...well...let's just say that things don't end well. Dawn reads Internet info about the vagina dentata myth, which says that there is special male out there who can conquer her problem. Will she find Mr. Right?

Weixler's performance really makes the film watchable. It's a brave performance really, made even more impressive by the fact that TEETH is only her second feature film. I can't imagine what she must've though of the script when she read it. Or how she told her parents when she got the part. "Hey Mom...Dad...I got the part! I play a girl with teeth in her vagina!" Lichtenstein aims for satirical comedy with a horror edge and while he's partially successful, there is a drabness to the production that hurts it in the long run. Compositions are just okay, and while the film has only a 90 minute run time, the pacing and overall rhythm of the film is a little awkward. Also, after about the fourth or fifth close-up of severed, bloodied penises, the movie just starts feeling a bit gross and icky. But, it's occasionally funny, always outrageous, extremely different, and not like anything I've ever seen. As my father has said for years when it comes to watching movies, take me to a place I've never seen or been too. I've never seen a world like the one that the characters in TEETH inhabit and I don't think I'd ever want to go back. But I'm happy I caught a glimpse of such a freaked-out and sexually paranoid universe. And the film's final scene, is, in its own little way, rather perfect. Lichtenstein seems to have some personal issues he needs to work out with the opposite sex; could he really be this scared by female genitalia? Or is just having some nasty fun?

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