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Teeth: Carrie Meets Jaws in a Feminist Revenge Fantasy

GiggleSugar caught this scary/funny movie recently and awesomely offered to write up a review. Thanks, Giggle!

Dawn (the gorgeous and talented Jess Weixler, recalling a young Reese Witherspoon) is a naïve high school virgin who wears unicorn T-shirts, gives motivational speeches on behalf of her teen abstinence organization "The Promise," and whose body hides a secret that is revealed (or, more accurately, confirmed) only after she goes to the gynecologist: her vagina has teeth. One after another, molesters, rapists and just plain creeps find that Dawn has a nasty surprise waiting for them if they mess with her.

Director Mitchell Lichtenstein (son of Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein) makes the most of this crazy premise in his horror movie Teeth, which could have merely reversed male-on-female violence, inviting the audience to revel in watching Dawn’s vajayjay rip men to shreds. Although there is quite a bit of that, Lichtenstein also uses the horror movie genre and the vagina dentata myth to explore the roots of male misogyny (fear of the female body coupled with desire for it), and the ways that our culture reinforces it. Teeth is a smart, hilarious, and “ewww”-inducing gorefest that will have you thinking about men, women, and the state of our sexual culture long after the audience’s hooting and hollering has stopped ringing in your ears. To see what I mean,

Teeth contrasts Dawn’s purity with the besmirched environment around her. Toxic smoke spews from nuclear reactors behind her family’s house and may be the cause of Dawn’s “mutation." Her stepbrother Brad (John Hensley) is a surly goth punk who lusts after his beautiful stepsister. And when Dawn walks to her high school and angel music plays in the background, she’s assaulted by a phalanx of teens making fun of her vow of chastity. “Let’s pop her cherry,” one of them taunts.

Although sex is an ever-present external threat to Dawn, it’s a tribute to Teeth's sensitivity and intelligence that it’s also depicted as an internal threat that Dawn eventually makes peace with. Teeth, in other words, is no pro-abstinence film. Dawn’s sexual awakening in the form of her desire for Tobey (Hale Appleman), a fellow abstinence buddy, troubles her. Yet, after her body reacts involuntarily to various male molestations the way a toothed vagina would be expected to react (not very kindly), she begins to own this power, having the ability to chomp or not to chomp depending on how comfortable she is with the sexual situation she’s in. In one scene, she looks boldly at herself in the mirror with a new appreciation of the body she once feared.

With a clever script, great actors, and more severed penises than a man or woman would ever want to see, Teeth turns the horror genre on its head. You’ll never again watch a vulnerable woman in a horror flick without anticipating a "chomp" sound followed by a man’s blood-curdling shriek—and you'll be a better person for it!


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