The legend of vagina dentata dates back centuries, and is widely recognized across dozens of cultural divides. Usually, when a common mythical belief is so widespread amongst disparate groups, there’s some semblance of truth to it, but, in the case of vagina dentata – succinctly, teeth in the vagina – the prevalence of this myth is easy to explain; men around the world are simply fascinated, mystified, and terrified of women. The idea that the physical manifestation of womanhood could be armed with teeth capable of shredding the manhood of anyone but the “chosen” or the “hero” served as both a cautionary tale for boys and an effective means of maintaining one’s daughter’s purity. With Mitchell Lichtenstein’s deliciously dark comedy, “Teeth”, the vagina dentata myth becomes a horrific reality for a young woman and the unfortunate male suitors who come her way.
The lovely Jess Weixler stars as Dawn O’Keefe, a purity-obsessed teenager who serves as the mouthpiece for a teen abstinence group. The young kids idolize Dawn, while her peers chastise her for her naiveté and very vocal disdain for the concept of pre-marital sex. However, when Dawn begins to develop feelings for new student/ fellow abstainee, Tobey (Hale Appleman), she entertains the idea of a sexual relationship with him, even inviting him to the local swimming hole for a dip (where he can see her in her bathing suit, no less!). When Tobey forces himself on Dawn, however, something inside of her snaps…literally. What follows is a teen girl’s quest for self-discovery, understanding, and a sexual partner her toothed vagina won’t devour.
Teeth is an oftentimes hysterically funny and grotesque spin on the coming-of-age drama. Think of it as “Sixteen Candles” as directed by John Waters and you’re halfway there. Sporting some extremely effective gross-outs, a razor sharp script by Lichtenstein, and a terrifically schizophrenic turn by Weixler (who is both the embodiment of purity and all-consuming desire), Teeth puts pretty much every teen comedy made this decade to complete and total shame. There are some uncomfortable moments (I mean, beyond seeing penises chomped off), mostly revolving around the strange relationship between Dawn and her salacious step-brother, Brad (John Hensley), who, as a curious child, was the first victim of Dawn’s…err…mutation. There’s also a subplot about Dawn’s terminally ill mother that felt a bit unnecessary as the motivation this bit instills in Dawn could have been achieved in myriad other ways. Then again, if Lichtenstein were to have drawn a less subtle parallel between her mother’s illness and Dawn’s mutation (and the nuclear power plant looming over their neighborhood) perhaps I wouldn’t have found this part of the story so specious.
This Dimension Extreme release features a commentary by Lichenstein; Deleted scenes (with optional director commentary); Behind-the-scenes; Trailer, and TV spot.
While certainly not one for the under 13 set, Teeth is a fantastically gruesome and hilarious cautionary tale for horndog teenagers and puritanical prudes alike, and, if you’ve got the stomach for it (seriously, this one had me squirming) a laugh-out-loud date movie for those of us who’ve already faced “the beast”. This one has cult-classic written all over it.