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TEETH

Solid (if minor) comedy-horror that takes the myth of the Vagina dentata (toothed vagina) and creates something unique and enjoyable.

The Package
     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.

The Story
     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…

The Direction
    
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.
 

Vital Statistics

TEETH
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, Adam Wagner
 

     

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