We haven't had a good vagina dentata movie in theaters lately, so it's a pleasure to see Teeth filling that particular need with such obvious relish and style. Not since Killer Condom (original title: Kondom des Grauens) have horror audiences been treated to such a robust and graphic display of penis-chomping. That 1997 release, you'll recall, was a German production adapted by director Martin Walz from a comic book, and released in this country by Troma Entertainment, the folks who gave us the Toxic Avenger series. Subtitled "The Rubber That Rubs You Out," Killer Condom did double duty as a horror spoof and also as a gay-themed comedy shocker, starring German actor Udo Samel as a homosexual New York police detective named Mackaroni, investigating a case of grisly sexual violence that no one can figure out — until they realize the condom has a vicious mind of its own. Needless to say, it was one of the funniest movies of that year.
Ditto Teeth. We know we're in capable hands when writer-director Mitchell Lichtenstein's opening shot pans across a bland suburban tract housing development and comes to rest on a house framed by the looming cooling towers of a nuclear power plant in the middle distance. This is a home in which anything is possible, as long as it's weird.
High school student Dawn (Jess Weixler, the picture of moist innocence) inhabits the house in question. Dawn belongs to a Christian "pure youth" group full of squeaky-clean kids who sing the praise of sexual abstinence, or, as they call it, "keeping your gift wrapped." As such, she is not overly surprised when, in her school sex-ed class, discussion of the female sexual parts is almost completely forbidden and the offending textbook illustration is covered by a government-mandated "gold seal." But Dawn is a bright, inquisitive soul — this only piques her curiosity.
Meanwhile, things are problematic at home. Dawn's stepmother is seriously ill and her stepbrother Brad (John Hensley) is Dawn's evil twin, a pierced and tattooed rocker and petty hoodlum who keeps a pet pit bull and delights in boffing submissive coeds. And one of the church youth group boys, Tobey (Hale Appleman), seems to be taking a more-than-fraternal interest in the budding Dawn. Something's got to give.
It gives, and keeps on giving. Seems Dawn is the possessor of a certain lethal Sheela na Gig-like female part that, true to legend, differentiates between the motives of the young men who enter therein. If the male member in question belongs to a conquering hero, all is well — if the schlong is wrong, it gets bitten off with extreme prejudice in flagrante delicto. As Dawn fully awakens to young womanhood, the discarded wayward weenies begin to pile up. The cops are naturally baffled. No one is safe because almost everyone is attracted to Dawn, even her sneaky gynecologist (Josh Pais). Dawn eventually assumes the role of rape-bait vigilante, trolling the highways for dirty old men. And rest assured, bad boy Brad learns to respect his stepsister.
We might have a hard time, uh, swallowing all this if it weren't for the double-edged charm of Ms. Weixler, here making her feature film debut as a female lead after starting out in daytime dramas on TV. Dawn, the epitome of pretty poison, separates the winners from the losers quickly, but no one ever seems to win. Maybe that will be addressed in the sequel. Until then, Freudians and gristle enthusiasts will find much to digest in Teeth, a fine example of the kind of movie that floats into multiplex booking schedules in the dark of January. If the Writers' Guild strike continues, this type of film could end up playing all year round. We could do worse.
The eponymous heroine of Alice's House could use a vagina dentata to help sort out her life. There's nothing mythological or fantastic about middle-aged São Paulo manicurist Alice (played with a drained expression by Carla Ribas) or her dreary situation. She shares a cramped apartment with her philandering taxi-driver husband Lindomar (Zé Carlos Machado), three grown sons who specialize in draping themselves on the furniture and complaining about the food, and her mother Dona Jacira (Berta Zemel), who maintains the household while listening nonstop to a horoscope call-in radio show.
Alice has a few things going for herself, though, like a former boyfriend who seems to be amusing himself by having sex with her on the side, and the company of the bitchy women at the beauty salon, constantly bragging about their sex lives. In fact, aside from being a prime specimen of kitchen-sink Brazil-oquence, Alice's House functions well as writer-director Chico Teixeira's closely observed, majorly ironic treatise on the hyper-sexuality of Brazilian society — the only thing most of the characters talk about is getting laid and the preparations for getting laid — and what happens when someone gets too old and worn out to play the game.
Filmmaker Teixeira, a veteran documentarian, keeps Alice's world on a short, ultra-realistic leash. This places the load on the capable shoulders of actor Ribas, and she responds with her version of domestic sainthood, São Paulo style — that is, she's cheating on her husband too, but her cheating doesn't really count because she gets dumped, and therefore she's the victim by default. The true saint is granny Dona Jacira, who cooks the meals and washes the clothes of these cretins, and for her trouble is shanghaied into a nursing home, even though she owns the flat where they all live. It would make a sad, far-from-subtle double bill with The Savages.