No innuendos about electric toothbrushes, please
Yesterday heralded the arrival of a much-awaited review copy, the delightful Teeth, a film about a young lady who has a set of razor-sharp fangs inside her vagina, and the hilarity that ensues as she has various, ahem, prickly encounters with the opposite sex.
If you’ve heard this story before, then you’ve probably encountered a form of the vagina dentata myth, which we might describe as a product of the male of the species’ enduring suspicion and/or fear of women. You might also have heard of a no-budget British shocker called Penetration Angst, reviewed here by the indomitable Baron Scarpia. Penetration Angst is, I’m reliably informed, absolutely dreadful, which is why, when I first read Teeth’s synopsis, I was surprised, to say the least, to discover that both films shared almost exactly the same premise. The notion of a toothed vagina is, of course, nothing new, but the precise details of the two films’ plots makes it hard for me to believe that mere coincidence is at play here.
I’ve been saying for ages that, instead of remaking good films, studios would be better off remaking bad ones, and it sounds as if Penetration Angst is as bad as they come. Teeth, I’m sure, is considerably better, but I still haven’t decided quite how I feel about it. Like Penetration Angst, it falls into the trap of making all the men that our intrepid heroine comes into contact with end up being filthy slimy perverts (to quote Tenebrae). It’s frustrating because of its predictability, and also because it allows the writer/director, Mitchell Lichtenstein, to dodge any potentially difficult questions - like why are we rooting for a serial killer/mutilator? The way the film is set up, everyone who loses their wang (or, in one case, fingers) basically “deserves” it (yep, even the gynaecologist to whom she rather astutely pays a visit when she realises something isn’t quite right downstairs), and the majority of the sexual encounters are forced on her (the only one that isn’t is someone she actively seeks to entrap).
The acting in Penetration Angst is described as being uniformly awful (which is probably appropriate enough given the apparent quality of the rest of the film). This isn’t a problem with Teeth, whose lead, Jess Weixler, is actually very very good. She has the rather unenviable task of playing a character whose head is firmly up in the clouds (she is a blissfully ignorant Christianity enthusiast who gives talks to impressionable teenagers about “waiting” - c.f. the Silver Ring Thing), and the film, not unreasonably, treats her attitudes without a great deal of respect. Somehow, though, she doesn’t lose our sympathy, at least until the final third of the film, in which a rather predictable tonal shift occurs and it becomes considerably harder to root for her. Actually, it’s a rather well-made film all round, more so when you realise that it’s the director’s first feature. I think this raises the bar in terms of quality and prevents it from simply being moronic dross. That, and the fact that a very interesting balance of horror and sly comedy is maintained throughout.
Expect a full review in the near future, once I’ve had a chance to mull it over.