When I'd first read about "Teeth", I thought it was the kind of film that would generate a fair amount of controversy (and, as a result, the desired "buzz") due to its plot. However, the movie came out on DVD before I even realized it had come out in theatres - surprisingly, the film's theatrical run never went beyond a mere handful of screens.
The picture focuses on Dawn (Jess Weixler), who seems like an everyday teenage girl growing up in an anywhere, USA town. She's joined a group of kids who are planning to save themselves for marriage. However, her plans start to head towards the window when she meets new kid Tobey (Hale Appleman). She manages to keep her cool, but Tobey presses the issue and he tries to take her virginity, despite her protests.
What Tobey doesn't realize is that Dawn's downstairs has a dental plan, if you get my drift. Ouch. Just ouch. A sleazy gynecologist also loses a few fingers, but that isn't the end of it. Dawn's home life has also gotten worse over the years, with her mom having developed cancer (the nuclear power plant belching smoke in the background probably at least part of the problem) and her stepbrother (John Hensley) has grown up into a nutcase who still holds impure thoughts for his stepsister.
"Teeth" works as well as it does thanks to Weixler's performance. It's her first effort and it's a really natural one, with initial scenes of awkwardness that feel extremely genuine. The actress also does a nice job with Dawn's turn from shy and awkward to more confident after realizing her "power" over men. The movie's scare scenes are over-the-top enough to be somewhat goofy, but Weixler gives a bold first performance that is hopefully the start of a promising career.
"Teeth" has a few things to say about sexuality and female empowerment, but the movie seems - especially as it goes into the second half - mildly more concerned with making an over-the-top horror/comedy that leaves an impression. Director Mitchell Lichtenstein does manage to combine horror and comedy reasonably well, but the film does get a touch repetitive. Although the movie never gets to the point where it wears out its welcome, at 94 minutes, the film could have lost a few minutes to tighten up the somewhat thin story.
Overall, "Teeth" has some flaws, but as a debut film it makes an impression. The best thing about the picture remains Weixler, as she's the glue that holds the movie together.
VIDEO: "Teeth" is presented by Weinstein Home Entertainment/Genius Products in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality is respectable, as while the film's low-budget origins show through, the material does look reasonably crisp and clear. Some mild grain (the grain likely an intentional element) and light artifacting is seen, but no edge enhancement or print flaws were spotted. Colors looked a tad subdued and appeared slightly muddy during the darker sequences.
SOUND: The dialogue-driven 5.1 soundtrack offers clear dialogue and effects, but surrounds are left out of the presentation. Audio quality was fine, with clear dialogue and score.
EXTRAS: Writer/director Lichtenstein offers an audio commentary for both the film and the deleted scenes. We also get a "behind-the-scenes" featurette, trailer and TV spot.
Final Thoughts:Overall, "Teeth" has some flaws, but as a debut film it makes an impression. The best thing about the picture remains Weixler, as she's the glue that holds the movie together. The DVD presentation offers reasonably good audio/video quality, as well as a decent helping of supplements. Rent it.
The Film B-