What follows is a review of one of the most audacious films in recent memory.

High school student Dawn is a spokesperson for ‘The Promise’, an abstinence advocating group, and helps out by doing speeches at the various events they organise. The opening few moments of this film elicited whoops of laughter from the Melbourne International Film Festival audience, though one wonders if there would simply be sincere nods of approval should this film ever be screened in the American Bible Belt. Jess Weixler’s performance as Dawn is brilliant, and she’s a definite rising star. Innocent yet kind hearted, Dawn is teased at school for her work with The Promise. Weixler lets proceedings pan out with utter seriousness, no matter how extreme they get.

TeethSex education at her school is severely lacking, especially when it comes to female sexuality, and as a consequence Dawn knows nothing about her own genitalia. This ignorance, in combination with her guilt-laden feelings towards fellow activist Tobey, leads her to believe she is a living version of the vagina dentata myth. What follows is one of the most delightfully and irresponsibly gruesome horror satires ever made.

Though clearly taking the piss, Teeth takes all the right steps down the horror genre path. The music, editing and performances are all geared towards a straight horror film, even if the premise is ridiculous. The hilarity comes from not only the concept, but also the subtle and not so subtle subtexts that appear every now and again. There is a lot of symbolism going on – the teens hang out in an Eden-like forest, and explore its cave – and this only adds to the extreme nature of the narrative.

The film falls short only by way of failing to really say something significant. It needn’t have been a soapbox, but all the same the subject matter surely lends itself to some sort of debate… Writer/director Mitchell Lichtenstein also falls into the trap of giving Dawn an easy way out, as so many of the men in the film seem to be almost cartoonishly evil.

Teeth starts out strong, sending up extreme versions of very real attitudes out there, but later becomes too single minded to realise its potential, and kind of plateaus instead of climaxing. Weixler’s standout performance is worth the price of admission alone, and it is a bold and original film, however it could have been a classic. Instead it simply relegates itself to the thoroughly entertaining horror/satire sub genre.

Rating: 3.0 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 5th August 2008
Hoopla Factor: 4.0 stars

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