- Teeth (2007) movie review: Mitchell Lichtenstein’s kinky horror comedy will give some men sexual nightmares.
Teeth movie review: Actor-turned-filmmaker Mitchell Lichtenstein effectively blends sexual humor & sexual horror
A horror movie with comedic elements, Teeth – the directorial and screenwriting debut of Streamers and The Wedding Banquet actor Mitchell Lichtenstein – revolves around three subjects: Female virginity, genetic mutations, and, most importantly, the myth of the vagina dentata (Latin for “toothed vagina”).
Here’s the gist of the storyline:
Dawn O’Keefe (Jess Weixler) is a teenager who was born with teeth in her vagina.
She lives in close proximity to a nuclear power plant, which may be the source of her mutation. (That possibility, however, is never brought up, except via careful camera placements.)
Now, Dawn also happens to be a celibacy-promoting high-school student whose no-sex lifestyle is going well until she crosses eyes with Tobey (Hale Appleman) at a pro-virginity seminar.
Later on, Dawn and Tobey are introduced by a mutual friend and start seeing each other.
Nature and hormones begin to take effect, something they both initially resist.
When one of them decides to acquiesce to their physical urges, the horror element of Teeth – that previously had been only hinted at – comes into play.
Unlike most horror movies, the actual horrific acts in Teeth take place off screen. Else, the picture would have received an NC-17 rating.
What we can see on screen is the result of the act: The bloody, squirting, messy remainders of whatever Dawn’s vagina dentata has chewed on.
It’s gruesome, but nothing the average horror movie watcher isn’t used to seeing.
In fact, it’s the thought of what will happen, what is happening, and what has just happened that is truly horrific.
I usually avoid talking about a specific scene in a film (for fear I will ruin it for the first-time viewer), but I must mention one hilarious instance in Teeth. It involves Dawn and a gynecologist.
So, after investigating her vagina’s “condition” over the Internet, Dawn decides to see Dr. Godfrey (Josh Pais) to find out what sort of abnormality she’s got between her legs.
After the gynecologist has abused his authority – think Dr. Mott at the beginning of The Hand That Rocks the Cradle – both patient and doctor discover that vagina dentata is no myth.
The doctor vigorously attempts to pull his four fingers – four fingers – out of Dawn’s vagina, but to no avail.
We see him yanking left and right, with Dawn’s body going right along with him as she grows increasingly more terrified by the doctor’s agony and the fact that he can’t get himself out of her.
At first, the scene is totally fucked up because of Dr. Godfrey’s unethical behavior, but then the tables are turned and the abuser and, however unwittingly, abusee switch roles.
The scene sounds sick, but keep in mind that Teeth is a (funny) horror movie, after all. The gynecologist sequence does work.
Not your grandparents’ horror flick
Unlike most horror movies where the heroine goes through no personality change even after enduring a perilous and/or extraordinary situation, Dawn – who in Teeth happens to be the antagonist as well – does change.
That transformation can be clearly seen on her face in the film’s last scene.
Along with the relatively low body count and lack of splashy nudity (though there is nudity), Dawn’s “character development” serves as further evidence that Mitchell Lichtenstein’s Teeth isn’t a mainstream horror movie. Instead, it’s an indie horror flick that happens to feature a heroine who is the stuff of most men’s fantasies.
That this fantasy has been turned into a monster capable of divesting men of their reproductive organ is unsettling – and will give males pause next time a coital encounter is at hand.
Direction & Screenplay: Mitchell Lichtenstein.
Cast: Jess Weixler. John Hensley. John Pais. Hale Appleman. Lenny von Dohlen. Vivienne Benesch. Ashley Springer.
“Teeth Movie (2007) Review: Men’s Fear of Women” review text © Reginald Williams; excerpt, image captions, bullet point introduction, and notes/endnotes © Alt Film Guide.
“Teeth (2007) Movie Review” endnotes
Jess Weixler awards
Jess Weixler Teeth movie image: Roadside Attractions.
“Teeth Movie (2007) Review: Men’s Fear of Women” last updated in October 2021.