TEETH

When Teeth first started getting shopped around as a possible film project, the premise raised immediate interest…and eyebrows. No one, after hearing the subject matter, could have been totally comfortable with the prospect of the film. I known when I read about it I had my doubts whether the movie could be successfully made in a manner that would allow it the screen time it needed at the box office. However, the potential as a cult hit and a fan favorite nagged at me like a, well, sore tooth.

The idea just wouldn’t go away. As evidenced in the DVD’s special features, the concept of a toothed vagina is spread over several cultures around the world, though there have never been any actual reported cases of it.

Still, I was intrigued and prepared for the worst. I figured the gratuitous violence and potential for maiming scenes would be at an all time high. Instead Director Mitchell Lichtenstein choose to tell a solid story based in a dysfunctional family and with the jaded view of high school as a backdrop. Both of these areas are way too common in our world these days, and they allow Teeth to explore those areas while at the same time shocking the viewer with the diametrical opposition of Dawn’s innocence and capacity for vengeance.

I’m not familiar with Jess Weixler’s other work, but she turns in a great performance as a budding ingénue with a secret that she doesn’t even know about. If she doesn’t get typecast as the Teeth girl, I think she’s going to pull down some serious roles in the near future.

John Hensley stars as bad boy stepbrother Brad. He’s been around several television series (Nip/Tuck) and movies, but just hasn’t broken out. He portrays evil really well in this film. I didn’t like him from the moment he stepped on stage and I waited constantly for him to get his comeuppance.

The movie, for all the imagined gore that comes to mind, is surprisingly less graphic than I thought it would be. The scenes of violence are less bloody than they could have been, and were maybe more jarring because of it.

The pacing is slow at the beginning, but it builds Dawn’s character and shows what she’s up against. All the betrayal she’s going to face is skillfully negotiated up front in the build-up, and most viewers that stick with this one are going to understand where she’s coming from when the end of the movie comes.

However, the “adaptation” that Dawn harbors within her is never – to my satisfaction – adequately explained. It’s supposed to be a jump in evolution, but no one hazards a serious guess as to how this happened. Demonic possession would have been an easy plot hook to hang it all on, but that wasn’t present either. So the biological difference that gives the movie its name and its bite is more a plot convenience than anything serious.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie. As with any good horror movie with a touch of black comedy, there were moments when I didn’t know whether to be appalled or howl with laughter. Sometimes I did both – at once. Teeth is a lot of what viewers will expect to see based on the premise, but the movie has some definite seriousness to it as well as a message about being female in today’s world.

Advertisements

STORM WARNING

Storm Warning is one of the most brutal and savage thrillers you’ll ever see. The plot has been done about a million times, but the director and five actors manage to stand the story on its head and give it a few new spins that will make your hair stand up.

The conceit of the movie is simple: Pia (Nadia Fares) and Rob (Robert Taylor) are an upwardly mobile couple in Australia who go for a bit of sailing and end up lost in dangerous territory. Pia is an artist and Rob is a lawyer, and neither of them are suited for what they encounter in this film.

The screenplay was written over 30 years ago, but was thought too violent to produce, so it never got made till now. After viewing the film, I have to agree about the violence. This is mean, bitter stuff that will take a truly stouthearted viewer to watch.

I also had to admit that the scenery is breathtaking. The Australian setting is absolutely beautiful. With the way the director slowly pulls the audience into the madness that’s about to erupt, there’s plenty of time to enjoy the local flora and fauna. I have to admit that the pacing was, at times, almost too slow. But once the story got up and running, you couldn’t break away from the screen.

While running from the storm and hoping to get their bearings, Pia and Rob reach a remote farmhouse. After breaking in, they quickly discover that there is nothing normal about anyone that lives there. Sex toys lay out in the open and pages ripped from skin magazines decorate the walls. I knew at that point that only bad things could happen.

Just minutes later, Rob discovers a huge amount of marijuana growing in the barn. He realized at the same time I did that whoever lived there couldn’t afford to let them escape. And at that moment, the rough men they’d seen earlier arrived back at the house.

This is when the movie really ratchets up. I knew things were about to go south quickly, and from that moment until the end of the movie, I never took a relaxed breath.

The menace grows slowly, almost like the tightening of a vise, and it won’t let the viewer go. I was mesmerized by what Pia and Rob had to deal with. One of the worst parts was the fate of the joey, the baby kangaroo. Although I could understand it, the idea of what took place is still stomach-wrenching.
One of the worst aspects was the gradual build-up of the violence. I totally understood how everything could escalate and be so bad. And I understood the steps Pia and Rob had to take to ensure their safety. Watching all of it was hard, and there was a definite mix of vindication and horror elicited on my part.

The fishing lure trap in the barn is going to set the teeth of a lot of viewers on edge. It was horribly hard to watch, and the subsequent beating later – complete with all the special effects – was difficult.

Storm Warning is recommended only for horror fans and suspense junkies that like blood and realistic effects. The tense atmosphere is amazing, but the violence is drastic. The director, Jamie Blanks (Urban Legend), clearly knew what he wanted and got it. Although a lot of the low-budget horror films end up with a grainy finish, Storm Warning looks slick and pretty. A top-notch thriller that draws blood.

BIKINI BLOODBATH

Let me say this for the record and be upfront about it: there are no – as in none – redeeming qualities about Bikini Bloodbath. Anyone looking for anything philosophically deeper than a tanline or a plot of any degree is going to be sorely disappointed. The movie is exactly as the title portrays it to be, a bloody romp with girls in bikinis facing serial killers. It’s probably in a genre all of its own. The movie’s writers/directors, Jonathan Gorman and Thomas Edward Seymour, wouldn’t want it any other way.

Here’s the plot in a nutshell (a nutshell, I might add, that would probably hold the clothing worn by most of the girls in any one scene): seven teenage girls gather to celebrate the last day of school while a deranged murderer (dressed in a butcher’s/chef’s uniform for some bizarre reason) is loose in the neighborhood. One of the girls, Suzy, gets scorned by the others, and is disrespected in a way that instantly reminds long-time horror viewers of Stephen King’s Carrie. In fact, the whole movie is shot through with enough pop culture references that not all of them will escape everyone.

Bouts of drinking, bad jokes, scantily-clad girls playing Twister, and any conceivable reason in the world to strip for showers follows. I don’t know what I expected going into the movie, but I quickly checked both expectations and reservations at the opening frames because I knew this was just going to be…different.

Bikini Bloodbath is exactly the best kind of movie to air in frat houses and male college dorms worldwide. Nowhere else will the audience be kind enough to kick back and just enjoy being shot through with testosterone and a willingness to see a plotless wonder cycle through till the end of its seventy-minute run.

There are jokes, situations, and physical humor that was predictable as well as near-moronic. The last lingering vestiges of a horror film are quickly deep-sixed, although the cast wasn’t informed and seem willing to go through with the charade anyway. I mean, when the characters decide to throw a party and get drunk so they don’t have to be afraid of the killer lurking around outside the house, that’s pretty minimal.

However, in comparison, some of the other scenes shine. I couldn’t believe the “Flashdance” sequence even as I sat there watching it roll. No way could they get a guy to do that. But he did, and it wasn’t half-bad. Even though I never wanted to see anything like that again.

The movie was made back in 2006 and is just now out on DVD. Two other Bikini Bloodbath films have already been made and are awaiting release. Amusingly, both of those have pretty much the same cast as in this film that were slaughtered. So they’re just going to be renamed and killed again. They also have another movie coming out, London Betty, again featuring many of the same participants.

Maybe these movies aren’t ones you want to write home and tell Mom about, but the cast and crew seem to be having fun. And for male college students looking for something to do while killing a Friday or Saturday night, this could be the perfect no-brainer movie.

LAKE PLACID 2

Back in the 1970s, Betty White and Cloris Leachman starred in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which was at the top of the heap in sit-coms. Both women played solid comedic roles and helped shape the series by giving Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) someone to play off in different scenes. White was a Jekyll and Hyde homemaker show hostess and Leachman was the crabby/occasionally soft-hearted landlady.

Never in any of those episodes did viewers learn that both women harbored secret alligator fetishes. It wasn’t until Lake Placid and Lake Placid 2 that we discovered this. I have to admit, watching White feed her “precious” alligators in the first movie went totally against everything I’d ever seen of her, and it made the movie even more twisted. Watching Leachman perform the same function in this made-for-SciFi TV sequel just didn’t have the same impact. I expected it, and because of that seeing Leachman onscreen was a bit disappointing.

In the original movie, Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, and Oliver Platt end up trapped in the area as the alligators stalk them. The CGI was well done and the acting was solid. There was a lot of comedy and off-hand remarks that make these kinds of creature horror films work – the movie just didn’t take itself too seriously. The capper, though, was when they lowered the cow into the lake to use as bait. At best, the movie was uneven, though, and had trouble finding an audience. I enjoyed it because I didn’t have any high expectations.

When I found out there was going to be a sequel, it wasn’t cause for intense celebration, but I figured it would be worth a look. Sadly, the sequel misses the boat nearly all the way around. The movie in no way feels “fresh” or different. Its more like a rendition minus a lot of the interesting and comedic parts, and definitely without the budget for special effects. But it’s twice the alligator-killing frenzy because there are four predators this time instead of two. If you saw the first movie, just remember the final scene where Betty White is feeding the young alligators and you’ll realize this film was set up then.

In addition to Leachman, the film also stars John Schneider (The Dukes of Hazzard, Smallville) as Sheriff James Riley. The rest of the principal cast is rounded out by Sarah LaFleur playing Riley’s romantic interest Emma Warner, Sam McMurray playing big-game hunter Struthers, and Chad Collins playing Riley’s son Scott. I looked at those names and couldn’t think of a single thing I’d seen them in. I knew the prospect of a break-even sequel was dimming.

The budget for the original show, probably because producer David E. Kelley (Boston Legal) wrote the original script, was just short of $30 million. The sequel’s budget was $2 million, and it shows drastically. Kelley’s lighthearted and twisted approach to the material is also MIA.

The movie quickly devolves into predictable action and special effects, really weak special effects. The cutting one-liners, almost asides to the audience, are missing. And the tension just never really exists. It’s a vapid chomp-fest from beginning to end, and just never comes close to the original. Everyone, monsters included, simply go through the paces.

Interestingly enough, the film was made-for-television but at some point had nudity shot to add into the Unrated version of the film. That accounts for about four additional minutes of naked soon-to-be ‘gator bait that harkens back to that old horror standby: get naked, have sex, and die.

I didn’t care for Lake Placid 2. I never once got involved with the action or the characters. The presentation is purely paint-by-numbers with few saving graces. Watching Cloris Leachman take over the Betty White role was funny, though, but I think by that point I was desperate for anything that even came close to funny. If you’ve seen the first movie, you might want to see this one, but once you’re finished I doubt you’ll ever want to see it again.