Dawn (Jess Weixler) is a sexually repressed high school student who, unbeknownst to her, has vagina dentata—i.e., her red snapper has really, really sharp teeth. Calling Teeth an emotionally charged fable would be the understatement of the year. Combining black humor, monster-movie horror, and the best of '70s sexploitation flicks, writer/director Mitchell Lichtenstein's fascinating film manages to avoid the Fatal Attraction cautionary tale pitfalls and successfully aims for a message of female sexual empowerment.
As the naïve president of her school's abstinence club, blonde and beautiful Dawn is perversely unaware of her body and her incisor-filled lady place, a product of living in the shadow of the town's nuclear power plant. When equally repressed Tobey (Hale Appleman) moves to town, Dawn can't quite manage to keep her thoughts pure.
An innocent frolic at the local swimming hole turns hot, heavy, and eventually rape-y: The two teens wrestle in a make-out cave by the lake, and it's only then that Dawn realizes her cavity might have cavities. In other words, Ms. Razor Clam bites off Mr. One-Eyed Snake. In a testament to Teeth's overarching seriousness—despite the horror movie overtones—this moment is definitely not played for laughs.
It's then that Teeth finds its groove in a shameless and Grimm's Fairy Tales-esque fashion. Throughout the remaining half of the story nearly every man in town tries to rape, molest, or abuse Dawn, including her skeezy gynecologist and her stepbrother, Brad (John Hensley), whose previous long-forgotten childhood attempt at sexual abuse resulted in a severed fingertip and a fondness for anal rather than vaginal sex. The world is a rough place for a girl with two mouths to feed.
Teeth is an unsettling coming-of-age film: It's funny, disturbingly gross, and as melancholy as any superhero's origin story. Surprisingly, it's not as exploitive as the plot synopsis would make it seem—in fact, the film's skewering of the abstinence movement is spot on and hilarious, and Lichtenstein unflinchingly tackles the dicey world of sexual politics.