Teeth (2007)

Written by Michael Schutz

Teeth do feature prominently in this 2007 horror/dark comedy flick. But not teeth in your mouth. Think of a woman, and think lower. This movie blends just the right amount of allegory and camp into the ostensible framework of horror. It’s highly entertaining, but don’t look for much deeper meaning.

I always take notice when characters in movies are watching movies themselves. In Teeth, our heroine Dawn can be seen watching one of those classic giant-creature features from the 50s. If you know your horror (and I know you do, my dark friends), you remember that nuclear radiation caused the mutations in those flicks. The horror reflected a very real fear during the years after the development and use of the atomic bomb. The movie Dawn watches is certainly meant to parallel her own mutation, which we are led to believe has been caused by her home’s proximity to a power station. But on another, deeper level, we must draw the conclusion that Teeth also deals with a theme of modern days’ fears—the promiscuity of our children and the threat of sexual violence.

But as quickly as those issues surface, they lose coherency.

The movie takes an odd turn in its last third, when Dawn begins to explore her sexuality. This didn’t feel like an organic progression, but rather a means to an end. The writer’s mission: Dawn must begin a destructive rampage! But would her character really be liberated so suddenly? Her early dedication to celibacy, paired with her revulsion and confusion of her vagina dentata, make me think she’d run for mountains and become a recluse. Instead, more penis-munching is thrust upon us. And the joke begins to wear thin.

A conceit of men as vile pigs could have been used more fully, but Dawn’s stepfather is a genuinely good guy. Toby seems to have just lost himself in hormones and indiscretion. The gynecologist isn’t up to anything untoward. Aside from the stepbrother, there’s no one to root against, and he’s not focused on until the movie is ready to use him for its purpose.

I surrendered my hopes for an intelligent discourse, and in a rare turn of events, I enjoyed the campy moments best. The first vision of a toothy crab munching on a severed penis is terrific. The wonderful scene at the gynecologist starts as uncomfortable and suspenseful, yet ends in a hilarious scream-for-scream match.

For my final judgement, I must say that the first two-thirds of Teeth build naturally, with a clever give-and-take of tension and humor. But as the movie progresses, we can practically see the screenwriter at his word processor, trying to find more to say, more to do. It’s almost as if he set the screenplay aside for a while, finally returning to work with a different vision. The biggest flaw is that Dawn never has a transformative moment like Carrie White, in which we see and understand why her innocence transforms into lust for vengeance.

Teeth is an entertaining flick, but falls apart under scrutiny.