Director    Mitchell Lichtenstein
Starring    Jess Weixler, John Hensley, Josh Pais, Hale Appleman, Lenny von Dohlen
Release    18 JAN (US) 20 AUG (UK)    Certificate 18
3 stars


17th June 2008

The latest horror sub-genre to trickle into the mainstream would appear to be an offshoot of torture porn, focused around - brace yourself - the genitals. It's perhaps one of the last cinematic taboos (for some reason the term 'severed penis' still turns people off), but it's bloody hard to shoot without earning yourself a top-shelf age-rating. Hard Candy skirted around the issue but Teeth takes a novel approach to the wang-bashing - castration through fornication. It's a rather obtuse metaphor for puberty and the virtues of girl power, but Teeth is both different enough from the usual teen trash to earn itself distinction and bold enough to go where other horrors wouldn't dare venture.

We join teenage high school girl Dawn (Weixler) on the cusp of womanhood. Dawn is a Christian spokesperson for celibacy, and - by the laws of wonderful movie logic - also happens to be smoking hot. Despite her chastity, she drives the boys crazy, and as her hormones flare up, Dawn discovers she has a unique anatomical condition - vagina dentata, or for the layman, teeth in the coochie. As the men in her life become impatient and increasingly abusive, Dawn realises her curse isn't necessarily such a bad thing after all.

Weixler is outstanding as Dawn, playing her as a young girl sitting on a coiled spring of sexuality. A cross between Heroes' Hayden Panetierre and Peep Show's Rachel Blanchard, she's got the good looks to go with the vulnerability needed and morphs admirably from butter-wouldn't-melt Little Miss Innocent to vampish sex weapon by the end of the film. It's a shame she's not offered any real meat to chew on (so to speak), as all of Teeth's men are two-dimensional perverts or rapists: even her gynaecologist is a sex pest. At least John Hensley as her vile step-brother Brad gets the elbow room to build on his bastard; come-uppances don't come much more deserved.

Down to brass tacks, then: how much do you see? Answer: more than enough, thank you. As Dawn gets up close and personal with a succession of over-eager boyfriends and scumbags, you're never more than a few minutes from a lopped-off cock shot, although you never actually get to see the offending gnashers themselves. The gore is complemented by some none-too-subtle imagery; jagged cave mouths, comically twisted tree stumps, crab pincers, etc. The constant shots of the nuclear power plant that loom over the city are a little too blunt, mind: this is a film where nothing is left to the imagination.

Director Lichtenstein struggles to find the right balance throughout; scenes segue clumsily between awkward attempts at pre-coital comedy and the brutal acts of rape themselves. Although the intention may have been to create an uncomfortable, queasy atmosphere, Teeth is tonally at sixes and sevens and may leave you feeling dizzy and even a little dirty (you are participating as voyeur, after all). Perhaps it would have been received a little better in the '80s as the exploitation flick it so clearly wants to be - hell, it might even have caused an uproar, rather than the mild murmur with which it'll be received in the current horror climate. Ali

More:  Horror  Sex
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