Teeth (2007)

First published by Little White Lies

There are few horrors greater than the adolescent body, and so, since their invention in the sixties, teenagers have been a staple of the horror genre – and they rarely come more confused than Dawn (Jess Weixler).

Even if she has pledged to retain her ‘purity’ till her wedding day, her male schoolfriends are all jerks with just one thing on their mind, her family doctor (Josh Pais) has wandering fingers, and her stepbrother Brad (John Hensley) is an oversexed psychopath. Still, as Dawn begins her awkward evolution into womanhood, she discovers a mutation which enables her to bite any unwanted invader where it really hurts. Now, in the battle of the sexes, it’s a whole new Dawn.

Teeth might so easily have played out its vagina dentata themes as the tawdriest of horror, but writer/director Mitchell (son of Pop artist Roy) Lichtenstein has instead crafted a witty satire that explores the state of the (female) body politic, spread-eagled between the puritanical and the priapic in a culturally confused America. Dawn may take only so much from men before she is ready to spit it right back at them, but far from being some slick avenger, she is a gawky teen more akin to her namesake in Todd Solondz’s Welcome to the Dollhouse, so that her first fumbling attempts at consensual sex are just as cringe-makingly funny as the emasculating punishments she metes out upon her aggressors.

And so, like the Vagina Monologues rewritten for slasher fans, Teeth gets its bite from a combination of embarrassing observation and eye-watering (at least for the men) abjection. It is more entertaining than it sounds, and also more subtle – while redressing the anatomical anomalies of Deep Throat in a way that is likely to bring female viewers far greater satisfaction.

Anticipation: A fanny with fangs? Sounds cheap and tawdry, just the way we like it…

Enjoyment: It’s the satire that bites, not the film.

In Retrospect: Cult status awaits.

© Anton Bitel