Teeth (2007)

After watching Jennifer’s Body, I decided to watch Teeth, a film made the previous year of the same genre as Diablo Cody’s disaster. Whereas Jennifer’s Body tries to force its humor and hipness onto the audience, Teeth is confident enough in its story to remain entirely tongue-in-cheek and let the viewers laugh by themselves.

Teeth is about a young girl named Dawn, played by Jess Weixler. Dawn is a puritanical, heading a group in her school devoted to abstinence and wearing promise rings, preserving themselves for marriage. Between her own growing interest in sexuality and the sexual force or manipulation of others, Dawn learns that she is a real life example of vagina dentana – she has teeth in her vagina.

This premise is clearly outrageous, and that’s why the film is able to cooly pretend that everything is serious while still garnering tons of laughs. It also shows its awareness by going to the extreme with its characters – Dawn is puritanical to ridiculous standards and her step-brother is villainous enough to devote his time to strictly annoying her, even if it’s just bouncing a ball off of her wall repeatedly. The film’s ridiculousness also shows up in its use of footage from old monster movies and its devotion to showing close-ups of severed penises.

Teeth is both a black comedy and a horror movie, so there are instances of gore. Like I said, there are intense close-ups, sometimes things that you may not want to see. But without its gore, Teeth would fail at half its premise, and it’s not content to do that. I assume that the film handles itself so well because director Mitchell Lichtenstein also wrote the film. It’s a coherence that pays off, because Teeth moves quickly and maintains its goal of being a cheesy horror film that’s bad enough to be satire.

The film’s perfect execution could not be done without lead Jess Weixler. She is a star that the film never brings itself to leave, not even for an instant, and she is fantastic during every shot. Weixler brings the absolutely crucial sincerity to a role that requires naivete, purity, and a handful of instances of seduction and anger.

Teeth is a movie that succeeds in what it sets out to do. I would bet Lichtenstein is familiar with plenty of old horror movies, because Teeth captures the silliness and campiness of those movies while bringing a smart reflexivity to the table. It manages to be original in its empowerment of a female and hilarious to anyone who gets the joke. There might be people thinking this film was trying to be serious and failed completely, but they’ll also probably laugh while watching this, so Teeth manages to succeed even with them.

Final rating: 8/10

–James A. Janisse

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