Monday, June 07, 2010

ladies ladies ladies. and Teeth (2007).

Women are are amazing creatures, right? No doubt about that. So I do enjoy movies which make us out to be even more great than we already are.

I do consider myself a feminist, but I'm still learning to feel equipped to discuss feminism in any depth (the curse of being the least eloquent about the things I care about the most!)... but I know what I like, and I like seeing strong females -  it makes me want to strive to be one myself.

From my experience so far, the French give good ladies. Rarely without flaws but just so incredible that be they hero, antihero or downright villain, they're a pleasure to watch (and develop a heap of girlcrushes on).

Having heard about a mooted Martyrs remake, I was recently mulling over my opinions of that film again. How, despite the real suffering being exclusively inflicted on women, which one might read as a Bad Thing; the justification of this is that young women are the strongest, most receptive and most likely to withstand the horrific, humiliating trials which will eventually lead to their martyrdom.

It's fucked up, no doubt. But I also find it, perversely, very empowering and that response fascinates me. The women in Martyrs aren't shown to be tortured on screen for titillation (though equally I've nothing against that in the genre, it has its place), they are simply the best vessel for us mortals to become part of something monumental and otherworldly. Rather like our ability to bear children, one could argue.

A woman's body is an incredible thing, built tough enough to withstand immense amounts of pain whilst simultaneously being full of beauty and WONDER.

If I might be allowed to make something of a sweeping generalisation, based only on my experiences thus far: a female protagonist in the horror genre, outside of the New French Extremism, often amounts to nothing more than a screaming set of tits and ass.

And then in walks Teeth.

This is another film that although in places it's entirely uncomfortable to watch, by its end there's a distinct sense of female empowerment. Not as intense as the French horror referenced above, but still it deals with some heavy topics, such as sexual repression and assault.

The vagina dentata myth makes me laugh, I have to admit. Presumably because as a woman, I wouldn't be on the receiving end. I'd be the "monster" in question and that's kinda cool. There's no denying that a woman's sexual potency can be a dangerous thing, but this myth suggests that what we have between our legs could be so powerful as to actually be lethal - a source of genuine fear to others. And again, as a woman, I chuckle at the thought.

In Teeth, two high school pussyhounds are severely punished for their selfish desire of just plain wanting to put their cock in this girl; never mind her pledge of abstinence or her screams for him to stop.

Yes, the first instance of Dawn's (Jess Weixler) "power" as an adult comes about as a result of being assaulted by someone she believed herself to be falling for. How the film juggles the light and the dark is expert: one moment showing a sexual attack and seconds later, making the viewer splutter with disbelief and chortle at the outcome.

That's... gonna hurt in the morning.

From the intensely creepy gynecologist intoning: "My, you're tight..." whilst using his un-gloved hand on (in) her. To said hand being grabbed from the inside and Dawn momentarily being a kind of shrieking glove puppet, as he thrashes to save his fingers (he doesn't).

Weixler rightly won an award at Sundance for her performance here. Embarking on the story as a wholesome, naive girl and traveling through the stages - as defined by director Mitchell Lichtenstein in the making of documentary - of denial, fear, horror and ultimately an embrace of her gift. Dawn emerges as something of a superhero by the end of the movie. Her journey to this point is an exceptionally enjoyable one.

One of my favourite moments, is the scene where she removes the sticker from her textbook that is censoring a diagram of a vagina. This is after her first attack/retaliation and she is searching for answers as to what the hell is going on down there.

The range of emotions we see her go through as she gazes upon this picture is fantastic. Shock into fascination and then an expression almost of peace. It's kind of beautiful; that this young woman is giving up her willful ignorance of sexuality and finally starting to want to understand her own body. The entire scene has no dialogue, it's all played out on Weixler's face. Superb.

Attempting to recommend this film usually results in scrunched up faces in return. At least from my experience. Yet it is well, well worth a look. The perfect balance of gruesome, funny and sweet - perhaps easier for a lady to watch due to some rather... explicit male genital mutilation at times!

The marketing for Teeth deserves a swift mention, purely for how confused it appears to have been. Granted, how does one pitch a vagina dentata movie to the masses? However some of the artwork I've uncovered is so far off the mark it's unreal.

Let's start with the decent stuff.

Might be my favourite. That T-shirt is one she actually wears in the film, which as you will see, is a rarity. This leans more toward the comedy than horror themes, but it's just so darn cute and fun.

The Region 2 DVD release. It does the job nicely, even if the humour of the flick isn't really conveyed. Still, it's striking.

One of the posters used for theatrical release. Simple, mysterious. Again not making any deal of the blackly comic side of the movie.

Then things start to go awry.

It's a bit much, I think. Those knees are Photoshopped in and not massively well. The original image is this one:

Why add the knees? Well, in order to make the rose imagery absolutely obvious, it needed to be in between her legs, I guess. I don't like it.

Speaking of that rose...

Right, I think this one works. The rose jumps out at you, it looks cool. The little Dawn wasn't needed though, she lessens the impact.

This representation of Dawn actually really irks me. You can't see it clearly in the above poster as she's too small, yet on the back of the Region 2 DVD case, that image is the main one. It's an oddly rendered photo-realistic painting of her; and strangely she's wearing underwear and heels. This is at total odds with anything we ever see her wearing, or likely to wear in the film itself.

She's also shown in a classic "vulnerable victim" foetal pose. Sure, given that she is a victim in the film for the most part, this makes sense. However the combination of this and the attire she's presented in gives an entirely false impression of the film being an exploitation piece.

Which brings me to:

How many times can I say "no"? Because even then, it wouldn't be enough.

What the hell? Why is a virginal character all fuck-hair and jutting hip? What's with the sex/blood red colour scheme and general grindhouse-y filter they've used? What the fuck are they talking about Juno for?! It's just wrong on every level.

For a film so gender-interesting, there's a heap of mistakes with how it was marketed. Sex sells, of course. Just not sex with a tooth-lined vaginal maw, I suppose is the lesson here.


  1. Vagtastic! I enjoyed this movie, it was pretty funny.

  2. Nice choice for discussion, personally I liked the film and can see why it was a fav at the film festivals.
    You make a good point about the marketing. I'm kinda glad us Region 2 peeps got the 'xray' style one, I liked that the most.

    I'm sorry but the giant Rose one to me, immediately screams "FEED ME KRELBORN! FEED ME NOW!" ('Little Shop Of Horrors' btw)

    Its a shame we don't see more of your reviews, I always appreciate your insights, as they make me want to go back and re-watch films more thoughtfully.

  3. Aww Steve :D

    I am hoping to get into a nice rhythm of writing regularly again, now I have moved house and am mostly settled in. I really miss it. Sooo yeah, watch this space!

  4. I like Teeth a lot: It's full of Gender Studies win!

    Some of those posters are horrid though. The t-shirt one has been my favourite since I first spotted it online *nods*