Teeth (2007) — Grappling with vagina dentata

“No, no, look. I’m conquering them. See? Yeah, I’m the hero.”

Al’s rating: How terrible must that be? I mean, all that extra flossing?

Al’s review: Dawn O’Keefe is a typical teenager. She fights her way through the week, dealing with the life-and-death teen tribulations of her parents, friends, stepbrother, and school, not to mention her hormones that have recently been kicked into overdrive. She and her friends are committed to The Promise, a not-explicitly-religious-though-they-were-clearly-implying-it virginity pact that challenges kids to Save It For Marriage. Dawn is a devoted cheerleader for the cause, but her resolve is tested when she is introduced to Tobey, a seemingly like-minded teen newly transferred to their school.

Lust is in the air as they waffle between their morals and their impulses. They are repeatedly thrown together through fate and friends, and, though Dawn is able to resist the temptations of the flesh, Tobey is having a much harder time. Finally, despite all their efforts at a G-rated relationship, the two end up alone in a cave, and make several new discoveries.

First, Dawn discovers she has an extra set of (you guessed it) teeth. Then, Tobey discovers he is suddenly half the man he used to be. Finally, we discover that director Mitchell Lichtenstein has an apparent fondness for karo syrup and slightly chewed prosthetic penises.

Rather than a slasher movie like Halloween, or a ‘sexy serial killer’ movie like Poison Ivy, Teeth is really more the story of how Dawn comes to grips with being the owner of the vagina dentata. The cast and crew get major props for venturing where Hollywood fears to tread, and the trailer they created is one of my absolute favorites of the last five or six years. Unfortunately, that’s maybe where they should have stopped. It’s a great premise that would be right at home on Saturday Night Live or in a short film, but, even at just 85 minutes, the whole thing feels stretched too thin too soon.

We witness several subsequent encounters, running mostly in the vein of

  1. Dawn meets boy
  2. Boy reveals self as scumbag
  3. Dawn bites off important bits

They’re all deserving victims, so it’s fun for a little while, but, for all its novelty, the ride gets old pretty quickly. And the frequency with which she encounters predatory, salivating horndogs that are waiting for the right moment to not just manipulate her into sex but commit flat-out sexual assault is a little baffling. I admit that since I am not an available, teenage blonde with a knockout body and a gorgeous smile, I have no idea how often this stuff actually happens, but running into five of them without even trying seems to test credibility.

Jess Weixler gives a great performance as Dawn, imbuing her with a respectable blend of confusion, desire, and terror as she learns more about the stuff they don’t teach you in health class. In fact, the only problem with the strength of her performance is that it highlights just how poorly done every other character is.

Whether it was the writing or the casting, the rest of the film is filled with nothing more than cardboard cutouts. Her Promise-bound friends do nothing other than go places and try to stop themselves from having sex. Her brother, whose confrontation with Dawn is supposed to represent something of the movie’s climax (har har), does nothing other than play loud music and have sex with his girlfriend in… um… the back of a Volkswagen.

Really, other than our heroine and maybe one other character, there’s no dimension to anybody which means there’s no interest either. There are some genuinely good bits of horror/comedy and those few scenes probably warrant giving the movie a watch at least once, but for every moment where the movie shines, there are three others that are bloated or unsatisfying.

The biggest frustration I found with Teeth, I think, is how seriously everyone wants to take it. The director is clearly enamored with the idea that his movie is a parable about sexual awakening and female empowerment to the point where it nearly leaks off the screen, but he seems to have completely missed the fact that the finished product doesn’t really have anything to do with either one. All the castration and toothy nethers have sent legions of reviewers running for their Freud, but I just don’t buy it. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and just because you have a befanged bajingo doesn’t mean anything other than your Barq’s has bite.


  • Dawn’s T-shirts? “Warning: Sex changes Everything” and “Love is worth waiting for”
  • Who has an outdoor/indoor dog cage?
  • The covered up portion of the science book?
  • The dentata are part shark and part eel? Ew.
  • Gas is $2.79? I wanna live there!
  • The entire last scene has no dialogue at all?

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