Solid (if minor) comedy-horror that takes the myth of the Vagina
dentata (toothed vagina) and creates something unique and
TEETH (2007) attracted a minor cult following on the
film festival circuit, with star Jess Weixler winning a Special Jury
Prize at Sundance. Its U.S. theatrical bow, however, was extremely
limited (it played for a single week in L.A.).
TEETH was the feature directorial debut of longtime
supporting actor Mitchell Lichtenstein. He went on the write and direct
another woman-centered feature, 2009’s far less interesting HAPPY TEARS.
As a child Dawn nicks her step-brother Brad’s
finger…with her vagina, which, apparently because of toxic smoke belched
out by a nuclear power plant near her house, is lined with teeth. Dawn
matures into an absurdly prim and proper teenager who preaches a code of
strict abstinence. As for Brad, he grows into an antisocial dick with a
barely-concealed desire to fuck Dawn.
Finding her hormones overflowing, Dawn elects to give
herself up to Tobey, a local stud. The deflowering occurs in a lakeside
cave, and Dawn’s vagina, distressed at Tobey’s overly aggressive
screwing, bites off his wang and spits it out. He in turn falls into the
lake and drowns.
This sends Dawn into a tailspin of despair. She
researches the myth of the Vagina dentata, which springs from primitive
man’s sexual anxieties. Yet for Dawn that myth is very real, as proven
by a gynecological examination that ends with the asshole gynecologist
getting his fingers bitten off. Dawn’s mother is overcome by some
unexplained malady, which further depresses Dawn; she attempts to find
solace in the arms (and bed) of another shallow young man, who like
Tobey before him ends up with a severed penis.
This leaves one more domineering male: Dawn’s obnoxious
stepbrother Brad. After he beats up their father Dawn decides she’ll
have to deal with Brad, in her own special fashion…
A behind-the-scenes DVD featurette contains claims
of TEETH being a feminine empowerment story and/or modern spin on an
ancient myth, which take this black humored goof of a film far more
seriously than is warranted. But it’s also a mistake to view it as the
porno movie it was mistakenly branded during its initial theatrical
release, or even a gross-out extravaganza; outside some severed penises
and fingers there’s very little gore, meaning the claim that it’s
“Guaranteed to make you squirm and scream” is a tad misleading. Dumb
though its premise is, the proceedings are smart and funny--although the
film, which has many promising developments but ultimately peters out,
could be a bit more eventful and inventive overall!
What really makes TEETH work is the lead performance by
Jess Wexler, who’s funny and empathetic, rendering her character’s
journey from clueless victim to steely predator in touchingly immediate
fashion. She also has a highly distinct vocal range and a considerable
retinue of outrageous facial expressions, ensuring that the film is
always eminently watchable, even when writer-director Mitchell
Lichtenstein doesn’t do his job as well as he should.
The Weinstein Company
Director: Mitchell Lichtenstein
Producers: Joyce Pierpoline, Mitchell Lichtenstein
Screenplay: Mitchell Lichtenstein
Cinematography: Wolfgang Held
Editing: Joe Landuer
Cast: Jess Weixler, John Hensley, Josh Pais, Hale Appleman, Lenny von
Dohlen, Vivienne Benesch, Ashley Springer, Julia Garro, Nicole Swahn,