The image of vagina dentata, of a woman with a teethed vagina who must be conquered by a male hero who removes the teeth, has appeared in the mythology of various cultures for millennia. So it was only a matter of time before someone turned the myth into an independent comedy horror film.
I had seen the trailer for Teeth and read a bit about it a while ago, and thought that the idea could have made for a very bad movie, or, if executed properly, could be decent. I was surprised to find that is actually a great film thanks to an imaginative script and innovative direction from Mitchell Lichtenstein and a fine performance by relative newcomer Jess Weixler in the main role. The stoner brother of the main character, played by John Hensley, is the funniest and best written character I have seen in a film for a very long time.
Weixler plays Dawn O’Keefe, a teenage spokesperson for a pro-absence Christian group, and visits high schools encouraging students to wear the red ring that symbolizes their commitment to chastity. She walks around on a constant God high and doesn’t understand why everyone makes fun of her. At this point it is not really clear is Weixler is a terrible actress, or good actress doing a good job of playing a phony character. When Dawn meets a hunky student at one of her purity talks, she begins to fantasize about breaking her own promise. The two go for a dip at the swimming hole with an outcome that is not hard to imagine based on the film’s title. At this point, Dawn stumbles around her school in a post-traumatic haze and it is clear that Weixler is a fine actress with a very expressive face. Dawn begins to suspect that she may be “different.” Her school has issued sex education books with morality seals covering depictions of female anatomy. She soaks one off and then is sure she is different. A timely biology lesson informs her that organisms evolve mutations in order to deal with threats present in their environment, and she concludes that her anatomic abnormality must be to protect her from men who want her to break her chastity pledge.
Most of Teeth is predictable even before watching the opening scene, but it is still compelling to watch because of the performance and those moments which do come as a surprise.