Teeth is a horror movie with comedic elements that deals with mutation, the myth of Vagina Dentate and virginity. Teeth revolves around a teenage girl, Dawn O’Keefe (Jess Weixler), that was born with teeth in her vagina. Dawn is a celibacy-promoting high school student who at a young age was given a new step dad, Bill O’Keefe (Lenny Von Dohlen) and brother, Brad O’Keefe (John Hensley), when her mom, Kim O’Keefe (Vivienne Benesch), remarried. Dawn’s life of celibacy is going well until she crosses eyes with a boy, Tobey (Hale Appleman), at a pro-virginity seminar. They are eventually introduced to each other by a mutual friend and begin seeing each other. Nature and hormones begin to take effect, something they both initially resist but soon give in to. When one of them decides to acquiesce to their physical urges, the Horror element of Teeth that was only hinted at previously, comes into play. Unlike most horror movies, the actual horror act in not onscreen. Teeth would be NC-17 if it were and be an even more sensational (think Lorraine Bobbitt) film. What is on screen is the result of the act, the bloody, squirting, messy remainders of whatever her Vagina Dentate (Latin for toothed vagina) bit down on. It’s gruesome but nothing the average horror movie watcher isn’t used to seeing. It’s the thought of what will happen, what is happening and what just happened that is horrible and effective.
I usually try not to talk about a specific scene in a film (for fear I will ruin it for the first time viewer) but there is one hilarious instance in Teeth I most mention. It involves Dawn O’Keefe and gynecologist. After investigating her vagina’s condition over the internet, Dawn decides to see a gynecologist to find out if it’s true (Vagina Dentata) and if there is something abnormal between her legs. The fact that Dawn lives in close proximity to a nuclear power plant, a plant shown numerous times in the background and that it may be the source of her mutation is never broached, except in the viewer’s mind by careful cinematography. During Dawn’s clinical visit and after the gynecologist has abused his authority (think Dr. Mott from the beginning of The Hand that Rocks the Cradle), both patient and doctor find out that Vagina Dentate is no myth. The viewer sits there and watches as the doctor vigorously attempts to pull his four inserted fingers out of Dawn’s vagina. That was no typo. Four fingers. The gynecologist is yanking left and right, Dawn’s body going right along with him as she grows more and more terrified by the doctor’s agony and the fact that he can’t get himself out of her. At first the scene is FUBAR because of the unethical behavior (You’re tight. Re-Lax.) of the doctor towards unsuspecting Dawn but then the tables are turned and the abuser and abusee switch roles. The scene sounds sick but keep in mind it is a horror movie after all, was well filmed and is very funny. It’s definitely one of the marquee scenes in Teeth.
Unlike most horror movies where the heroine, who in Teeth happens to be the antagonist as well, goes through no growth/personality change even after enduring a perilous or extraordinary situation, Dawn does. The viewer clearly sees it on her face in the last scene of the film. From a horror movie stand point, it’s about time. It’s tiring, boring, predictable and absurd that a character is exactly the same at the end of a horrible situation as they were at its outset.
Mitchell Lichtenstein’s Teeth isn’t a mainstream horror movie, there is no high body count, no splashy nudity (though there is nudity). Teeth is an independent horror movie whose antagonist is usually the stuff of most men’s fantasies. That it was turned into a monster that could divest a man of the majority of his reproductive organ is unsettling and will give many men pause the next time a coital encounter is at hand.