Monday, January 21, 2008
The indie film Teeth, the darling of last year’s Sundance Festival, masquerades as a feminist film and has sadly been heralded as such, but the reality is that Teeth is a misogynistic film that tells the audience that the only way for a woman to have any power or control is for her to spread her legs and submit to men.
Dawn (Jess Weixler) is a virtuous high school student that preaches and practices abstinence. She is a motivational speaker for middle school kids, and despite the taunting cat-calls she receives at school, she stays true to her vow. That is, until she meets like-minded Tobey (Hale Appleman). The two fall for each other, but during an intense make-out session at the local swimming hole, Tobey forces Dawn into sex (while she’s half-way unconscious after bumping her head). Dawn’s genitalia fights back, taking a big bite outta Tobey’s penis. Dawn knows there is something very wrong with her body, and discovers she has “vagina dentata,” a myth that dates back to ancient civilizations. After numerous run-ins with other men who try and take advantage of her (only to have their members bitten clean off), Dawn realizes she can use her newfound teeth to her advantage…especially when it comes to her lecherous step-brother Brad (John Hensley).
Teeth was a very disappointing movie, especially since it had been branded such a great “feminist” horror film. It’s a pity that just about any movie with a female lead is automatically branded a “feminist” film because in Teeth its a grievous misnomer. It’s just about the most misogynistic horror film I’ve seen in a while.
Writer/director Mitchell Lichtenstein (whom I’ll refer to as LETCHenstein from now on) comes off as more of a lewd old man instead of a champion of woman’s liberation. He’s like the guy who says he supports your women’s lib group, but really says so just to bang all the hot chicks and brag about it to his buddies later. His female characters are of the Madonna/whore archtype, with little room in-between. Dawn is portrayed as naive and virginal in the beginning of the film (mostly for laughs at the character’s expense), but later begins turning into a bit of a slut. Yet, she is strongest at the beginning of the film – she knows who she is, what she stands for and she’s not about to let the bozo’s at school that taunt and tease her get in the way of what she knows is right…until she meets that “special boy,” of course. When Mr. Right comes along, we all know to drop whatever is important to us and ride off into the sunset with him, right? BULLSHIT, LETCHenstein!! Do you even know any women?? As for the other women characters in the film, they are underdeveloped or exploited, as is the case with Brad’s “girlfriend” (more like sex puppet) Kim, who submits herself over and over to his whims.
To be fair, the male characters aren’t written in the most flattering light either – most are rapists. Tobey forces Dawn to have sex at the beginning of the film, the gynecologist she visits sexually assaults her (and loses his fingers in the process), another boy places a bet that he can bang her and calls his friend while he’s having sex with Dawn (after he’s drugged her) to brag about it (bye bye penis) – oh, and all these scenes are played for laughs. Hmmm…last time I checked RAPE wasn’t funny, Mr. LETCHenstein. To make matters worse, sympathy is transferred from Dawn, you know, the rape victim, to her stupid attackers when they lose various body parts! If you need any more proof that this film is misogynist you need an eye exam.
For horror fans out there expecting a blood bath…you’ll also be disappointed. Except for 2 or 3 severed penises, it’s not at all gory. There’s maybe one shot of the bloody severed stub where the penis used to be, but horror fans have seen much worse. You can’t rely on gore in this film either…or scares for that matter.
The story itself is confused, convoluted and imbalanced. The horror of Dawn’s situation is reduced to gags and creates a very uncomfortable atmosphere. There are also weird bits of tragedy, like Dawn’s mom dying, which fit awkwardly into the overall story. The pacing is off and it takes FOREVER for something to happen and even longer for the next big penis-chomping to go down. I would usually applaud a film for taking the time to build up characters, but Teeth does no such thing, instead deciding to tiredly poke fun at religion and abstinence. YAWN!
The acting was just about the only good thing in Teeth. Jess Weixler pulls off Dawn’s many emotions convincingly, but it is John Hensley as her step-brother Brad that really shines. His foul-mouthed pillow-talk is uproarious and he steals every seen he is in (and even some he’s not, when he can just be heard in the background). He, like most characters in the film, is unlikable and we can’t wait to see his demise. Still, he is what saved this movie from being absolute trash.
Teeth, wrongly labeled “pro-woman,” is one of the most vile and misogynist pieces of cinema I’ve been unfortunate to witness. Or perhaps fortunately, because now I can warn you all of it’s deviant deception. I really cannot believe how many clueless critics heralded this as the best indie film out of Sundance…
Because, frankly, it BITES!
Available on Amazon!