Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bald Mountain Night 14: Teeth

Each day in October, intrepid blogger Alex Boivin will watch a horror movie. These movies are all new to him and are part of his month-long effort to fill in his gaps in the horror canon. If he doesn't die from fright, you just might get to read about about his exploits in cinema during the Halloween season.

I've known about Teeth for quite a while. When I first heard about it years ago, the (high) concept seemed too good to be a true: at long last a movie about the legendary vagina dentata! For those of you not up on your psychosexual metaphors, the vagina dentata is a vagina with teeth. It's a concept that incorporates primeval male fears of the unknown and feminine power, and now it has its own (overly literal) horror movie!

Dawn (Jess Weixler) is the leader of teenage abstinence movement and is as one might assume, a virgin. When a she is date raped by a Jonas Brother lookalike she discovers that she has the unusual ability to bite off the penises of wicked men with her lady parts. That's about it.

Teeth is directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein, son of Roy (I wrote a paper about him!), and it would seem like the only reason it got made was because people would hope that the writer/director inherited some of his dad's artistic touch: if he did, it doesn't show. The movie's gimmick only carries it so far, the rest is kinda sorta sub-par. The setting and characters aren't so much unbelievable as they are lazy: Dawn lives in a comically conservative town (with a comically Springfield-esque power plant next to her house, oh I get it...the radiation mutated her vagina) where comical teachers comically won't teach people about evolution or the female anatomy. Her friends are comical teen abstinence exemplars, her stepbrother is a comical asshole who listens to death metal, sics a rottweiler on his dad, and punches strangers, and also wants to have sex with Dawn (guess what happens).

Horror films are one of the best friends the (post-?)feminist movement has, that may sound counter-intuitive but it's kind of true. While the classic slasher film (probably best exemplified by Halloween) deals with a psycho killer hacking scantily-dressed coeds to pieces, it's also usually the last surviving girl to dispatch the masculine aggressor. There are hundreds of scholarly articles on this that are written better than this explanation of the (post-?)feminist horror film but mine has to be brief so I will just say that Teeth is a squandered opportunity and would have probably been better if it was made by a woman (like the criminally underrated Jennifer's Body). Well, a woman or any man who wouldn't put these words in the mouth of an unfortunate gynecologist who just lost his fingers to the titular teeth: "It's true! It's true! Vagina dentata! VAGINA DENTATA!!!"

Final verdict: 11 Congos