Sundance Winner ‘Teeth’ Bites Right to Point of Men’s Greatest Sexual Fear

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Average: 4.2 (11 votes) Oscarman rating: 4.5/5CHICAGO – In one of the great light bulb ideas that could only happen in association with making movies, along comes “Teeth” to bite us in the – well, to bite us hard. Writer and director Mitchell Lichtenstein has fashioned a one-of-a-kind horror epic (based, of course, on a Japanese film) that at the same time tangles with significant social and cultural issues.

Jess Weixler in Teeth
Jess Weixler in “Teeth”.
Photo credit: IMDb

Jess Weixler is Dawn: a bright and exceptional high school senior whose main charitable pursuit is called “Promise”. It’s an organization that promotes sexual abstinence for teens until marriage (complete with a ruby-red ring that’s to be replaced by wedding gold).

Her own virginity is in trouble, however, when hunky fellow Promise member Tobey (Hale Appleman) starts putting the moves on her.

Dawn harbors a secret – a secret that even she knows nothing about. Her body possesses “vaginal dentata” (or a “toothed vagina”), which translates to having controllable biting teeth in her secret garden.

John Hensley in Teeth
John Hensley in “Teeth”.
Photo credit: IMDb

Said another way, it’s the “unconscious belief that a woman may eat or castrate her partner during intercourse” and a “classic mythological symbol of men’s fear of sex”.

So when Tobey forces Dawn to go all the way by cornering her, he receives a guillotine-like comeuppance at the moment he puts his divining rod into a place where it clearly doesn’t belong. Let’s just say that every male in the theater will cross his legs in empathy.

The rest of the film deals with Dawn learning about and controlling her “power” while determining the best use for it. The best descriptive I can use for this film is “woah!”

Jess Weixler in Teeth
Jess Weixler in “Teeth”.
Photo credit: IMDb

It’s one thing to describe the circumstances of the narrative and another to actually experience it. If you think the rhetorical illustration of the events defy logic, wait to actually sink your own teeth into it.

Surprisingly, “Teeth” never exploits or panders – what are a few severed appendages among friends? – despite its questionable subject matter.

There is an admirable balance of humor, social commentary and even gore to strike the appropriate dark note. All I could do was laugh at most of it even if the laugh was of the “ewww and giggle” variety.

Jess Weixler in Teeth
Jess Weixler in “Teeth”.
Photo credit: IMDb

I also enjoyed the underlying exposition of sexual politics and the male’s clueless nature when it comes to the unknown of female anatomy. I relived my adolescence on the spot.

Contrary to what you’d expect, the filmmakers were fairly evenhanded in the portrayal of the abstinent society while never directly insulting the concept and allowing its impossibility to unfold. Tobey and Dawn’s first date, for example, is a hilarious laundry list of repressions.

While this could win “worst date movie ever,” if you take along a select group of like-minded sardonic pals this offers a unique roller-coaster ride of quality blood, female empowerment and laughs aplenty. Who could ask for anything more?

“Teeth” opens in Chicago on March 28, 2008 exclusively at the Music Box Theatre at 3733 N. Southport Ave. The film won a special jury prize for acting at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.

Click here for our full “Teeth” image gallery! staff writer Patrick McDonald

Staff Writer

© 2008 Patrick McDonald,

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