Sundance: Bite Me


I attended a noontime public screening of Teeth on Friday at the Sundance Film Festival, and the crowd response turned out to be quite interesting — maybe as interesting as the film itself.

One of the most buzz-worthy of the films in the prestigious Dramatic Competition, Teeth is a horror comedy about a virginal, abstinence-preaching teen girl (a terrific Jess Weixler) who was born with a toothed vagina but doesn’t know it. It’s also about the surprises faced by the boys and men who attempt to take sexual advantage of her. Director Mitchell Lichtenstein, a student of Camille Paglia and the son of artist Roy, has set out to inject a highbrow gender-studies bite to an old lowbrow standby, the nubile-teens-at-risk movie.

Anyway, the screening was packed because of the advance word. But I’m not sure everyone in the audience was prepared for just how far Lichtenstein pushes the gore. The movie definitely travels there, albeit with an early-John-Waters-does-Troma satiric attitude. Or maybe everyone was hoping that — because the film is in the Dramatic Competition — it just wouldn’t go that far. It does. (It is not, however, sexually explicit.)

I was sitting next to two teenagers who looked like high school students. As the plot complications (or maybe I should say plot amputations) developed, the girl’s reaction was to nervously and annoyingly guffaw at everything, as if to show she was hip to Teeth‘s tricks. The boy, however, was aghast and kept saying, “What is this movie?” and “I can’t believe this” and to shield his eyes with a legal pad.

After the screening, perhaps the hottest question among audience members was what kind of rating Teeth will get when it’s commercially released by Weinstein Company and Lionsgate Films, which jointly acquired it. Many people thought it went far beyond an R. But does it? With torture/dismemberment movies like Saw firmly established as appropriate R fare, as well as the way Scary Movie notably used a penis for comic effect, Teeth will have a good case for an R. It will be an interesting test case.

— Steven Rosen

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One Comment on “Sundance: Bite Me”

  1. David Gallaher Says:

    Was this girl from the South?
    Par for the “course” down there. “Down there.”
    Does anyone remember the penis-biting episode from the movie, “The World According to Garp”?


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