Writer & Director: Mitchell Litchenstein
‘Teeth’ doesn’t dress up its vagina dentata as a hulking monster. She doesn’t turn into a big cat either. Nope: this is the most direct example of vagina dentata horror, with an excellent poster design making it obvious but not crude (well, the poster above). And that’s how the film plays out: clear but not vulgar. It has a lot of sleaze, but the film itself is not sleazy. It’s not a revenge fantasy, it’s not controversially feminist treatise against the patriarchy. ‘Teeth’ rides from a generation of extreme horror that means there’s no need for analogy, but black humour undercuts grimness and polemic. There’s melancholy and sadness instead of rage and comic book craziness.
Jess Weixler is Dawn O'Keef, a high school spokeswoman for abstinence, wearing her “purity ring” with pride and, it seems, a little out of fear of sexuality. There’s the overly familiar high school setting, a slightly heightened reality, the kind of colour palette familiar from 80s teen comedies – but it feels a little more muted after the cave. The feel is more akin to Bea Grant’s ‘Lucky’: there’s a sadness here. The performances and attention to character are more akin to indie sensibility than John Hughes. They could all be caricatures, and the gynaecologist and the lewd old man certainly verge on that – for comedic effect – but Jess Weixler gives Dawn full-bodied respect rather than just a prudish judgementalism. Similarly, John Hensley as her irredeemable brother Brad manages, through the scuzziness, to project a lost defeatism beneath the nihilism. Even The School Lesson Of The Film’s Theme doesn’t feel too, too obvious… even as the nuclear plant looms over the town.