In the ever increasing low-budget horror market a lot of films will go for a sensationalist approach to story-telling. Saw and Hostel went for intense gore and human suffering, whereas Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project focused on a more ˜old wives tale’ ghostly approach. Whatever your feelings about any of these films, or the horror genre as a whole, it is clear that you can give a clear synopsis to the threat, or the unique selling point of each. This is the best way to get your film press coverage and thus distribution. The film-makers behind shock comedy-horror Teeth found themselves an unique selling point within their narrative and it’s an affliction called ˜Vagina Dentata.’
Teeth begins with two divorcees who have recently married each other, bringing their respective children together in a new family unit. While the two children are playing, the son attempts to inappropriately touch his new sister and somehow cuts his finger. The action then flash-forwards years later and focuses on the grown up girl, Dawn (Jess Weixler) who is now the leader of a ˜Promise Group’ who forsake pre-marital sex and keep themselves chaste. Attending the local school, where images of female genitalia are banned from biology books Dawn begins to get close to fellow chaste teenager Tobey (Hale Appleman). The two go swimming and when Dawn refuses to have sex with Tobey, he becomes forceful only to suffer a terrible accident as she discovers an odd genetic mutation.
The term ˜tongue-in-cheek’ has never been more applicable than in Teeth. Willfully aware of the absurdity of the subject matter it refuses to try and make itself anything other than a hilarious, and sometimes squirm-inducing splatterfest. Scenes that at first appear to be trying to increase tension inevitably become farcical, leaving the audience in no doubt that Teeth knows exactly what it is. This isn’t to say it’s a bad film, in fact considering the problems it has at its morally skewed centre it actually does a decent job of not becoming an out-and-out comedy and the performances throughout are reasonable to good.
Like all horrors Teeth makes socially commentary, this time about the dangers of both chastity in young people and overt sexual promiscuity. The town in which the action is set appears to be made up of either virginal young women or rape-obsessed teenage boys with little room in between. The fact that as each male character gets immediate and swift comeuppance at the hands, or crotch of Dawn, shows that the film-makers were not trying to go overboard of deep character arcs. Relying on well-established archetypes Teeth is a simply story stretched to a feature length film through some innovative and overall amusing set-piece scenes.
It’s not particularly memorable outside of the central conceit and the plot is stretched and sometimes forced, but Teeth does deserve some recognition for its originality in presentation. Borderline straight comedy, it still has enough horror clichÃ©s to keep fans of the genre amused, while having enough ludicrous plot-twists and satisfying vengeance for others. It’s not one of the all-time greats, but it’s certainly not one of the worst in a genre synonymous with producing hundreds of cheap productions. Teeth is ultimately quite interesting, and with plenty of bite.