[Trigger Warning: Rape]
Writer/Director: Mitchell Lichtenstein
Starring: Jess Weixler, Hale Appleman, John Hensley
It took me four years to watch Teeth (2007). My husband refused to watch it. In fact he didn’t even want to be in the same room if it was on, which left a very small window for me to sit down and enjoy the film in its entirety without interruption. The movie has a lot of concepts that I really like (ahem, like the cave sex scene that freaked out my husband) but ultimately fails to push beyond its severed penis gags to discuss rape and violence against women with any seriousness. But I admit to cheering with misandrist glee after each killing. This movie seems to strike a nerve with male viewers and its easy to see why. Trailer below.
[!!!!] This post will talk frankly about rape–if you’re sensitive to that please tune out now [!!!!]
The story follows Dawn, a high school girl, who loves Jesus and wants to maintain her virginity until marriage. She meets another boy from her high school abstinence club, however when they go on their first date he ignores her wishes to wait and rapes her. Dawn discovers her vagina can bite off men’s penises. And so the reverse-gendered horror and hilarity begins.
Dawn is raped/molested a lot in this movie. Like…a lot. She’s raped by every major male character, including her stepbrother. Even the “hero” drugs her, waits until she’s unconscious, and proceeds to have sex while she is unable to consent. But Dawn is able to defend herself by biting off her rapists’ penises. The moral of the movie (I think?) is not to rape women. Is it scary? No. But it does challenge views about sex and women’s roles in horror films.
Let’s face it. Most horror movies are marketed towards men and their sexual frustrations. The monster/killer/bad guy is almost always male, violent, and harbors a special bloodlust for female victims. The female character always has the bloodiest death, usually after just engaging in sex or equally provocative act. Erotica and horror are a potent, powerful mix, which is why it so happens to be my favorite sub-genre of horror.
Horror movies are a safe way sexual people can vicariously relieve ourselves. I get it. You get it. We all like the violence in horror movies. But that’s precisely why Teeth is so great! For once the female character isn’t tripping over her own breasts or waiting to be rescued. Dawn rescues herself.
What peeeved me most about Teeth is that it didn’t go far enough. It’s hard to call Dawn an “empowered” character when she is raped and molested throughout the entire film. Not once is she in control of her sexual choices, her rapist is.
Teeth is still a movie for and by men, but I think women might enjoy this movie for its attempt to reverse gender politics. Four years was worth the wait. Giving this one an A and also adding it to my collection.