This One Bites!
In the film American Beauty, Kevin Spacey’s character is sharing a joint and a laugh with his young neighbour. “Heh…” he manages to get out between stoned giggles: “Did you ever see that movie where the body is walking around carrying its own head and then the head goes down on that babe?”
The reply is immediate: Re-Animator.
Yes, it was director Stuart Gordon’s wonderful, tasteless splatterfest which hit the screen in 1985: H. P. Lovecraft’s Re-Animator. It didn’t take long to become a cult classic and a guilty pleasure and there it was being referenced in a mainstream Hollywood movie with most of the audience in on the joke.
Of course, the term ‘guilty pleasure’ is a total misnomer as far as this website goes. I have a wide variety of interests ranging from Shakespeare to the worst excesses of Ken Russell movies. I even liked his completely tasteless short movie A Kitten for Hitler. And I don’t feel the need to apologise for one over the other. Being able to enjoy theatre doesn’t negate being able to enjoy a comic book.
So this section is going to be devoted to some films that I’ve liked but which are either completely tacky, filled with totally gratuitous sex and violence or with no redeeming social value at all. Or all of the above.
Yes, I did love Re-Animator and yes, watching a living severed head attempting to perform cunnilingus on a ‘babe’ is probably not something to boast about. But two things: the film is a stone cold splatter classic; and the babe in question was the great Barbara Crampton. So whilst it was a pleasure it wouldn’t really be accurate to call it a ‘guilty’ one because I don’t feel that way in the slightest.
Of course a guilty pleasure is also something that you enjoy but perhaps feel that you shouldn’t because everyone else disapproves. Kick that idea out! It means that you’ll miss out on such diverse pleasures as The Rocky Horror Show or Christmas Mince Pie Ice Cream, both being great by the way. I myself used to have a seriously bad Coronation Street habit; but I kicked it cold turkey a couple of years ago, which is probably just as well. Are there any actors left in it? Every time I open a newspaper there seems to be another one up on an (alleged) sex charge.
Let’s kick this section off with a sweet little film about female empowerment that had grown men cringing in their seats. It’s the charming tale of a lovely young lady with a chilling set of pearly whites located in her vagina.
Actually, after that entire build-up, writer and director Mitchell Lichtenstein’s 2007 film doesn’t really deserve to be considered a guilty pleasure at all. It’s interesting that critics enjoy this movie more than the paying punters seem to have done. It’s also curious that at the showing I went to there were mainly couples there (myself included) and when a guy had his penis bitten off the blokes in the audience nearly went through the roof (myself included) whilst their partner seemed oddly unconcerned. I just wanted to mention that; no particular reason.
It opens with a really beautiful shot that shows a perfect blue sky before moving along a line of trees and casually picking out the twin chimney stacks of a power station. Then it moves over a suburban house where a couple are sitting watching their respective children—a boy and a girl—playing in a kid’s pool. Unfortunately the parents, who are in fact about to marry, aren’t watching closely enough. The kids seem to have been playing a game of show-and-tell that has gone a little too far and the boy ends up with a bleeding finger. It’s later on that we realise just where he had been putting it for it to get that way.
The next time we see the girl, Dawn (Jess Weixler), she is a teenager who is speaking to a pro-abstinence group—the abstinence in this case being sex. Yes, it’s one of those strange groups who try to repress their natural urges by wittering on about The One and how important it is to wait for them. It’s a nice idea, I suppose, but totally unrealistic.
Although the actress bears a striking resemblance to Brooke Shields I couldn’t help wondering if she was supposed to recall Britney Spears in this scene? I seem to remember Spears swearing to all and sundry that she would remain a virgin until she married her true love. Then two weeks later she seemed to be getting jiggy with someone every five minutes and that selling-point went out the window.
In the meantime Dawn’s step-brother Brad (Jon Hensley) has grown up to have major head issues. He has a lovely girlfriend but is only—and I mean only—interested in anal sex with her, something that she is getting rapidly fed up with. “I’ve got a perfectly good pussy” as she tells him reasonably. But Brad is as repressed in his own way as Dawn and has even blocked out the memory of what happened to his finger.[A word about the actress who plays Melanie, the girlfriend: Nicole Swahn is someone I know nothing about; but she manages to take a small role and make something special of it. There is a real pathos to the way she portrays toughness, vulnerability and puzzlement almost simultaneously.]
A male member of the chastity group begins a kind of relationship with Dawn; but this creep can rattle on about purity and the Lord as much as he likes, we know that he’s far too sweet to be wholesome. And so despite almost jumping out of my (fore) skin I wasn’t overly concerned about him when he and his penis parted company as he forced himself on her.
Are we supposed to think that the proximity of the power station has caused this mutation in her? Or has it just happened spontaneously as is hinted at by one of her teachers. Her mother is dying of an unspecified sickness. Is this caused by radiation poisoning? During one scene in her bedroom The Black Scorpion (1957) is showing. It’s a movie from that period where radiation was causing everything from tarantulas to ants to grow to humungous size. But if this is so, why does no one else in the area appear to be effected?
Later on Dawn researches her condition and finds the myth of vagina dentata*; and we also see her looking at a scene from Hammer Films’ The Gorgon (1964). Indeed she seems to have been fascinated by the idea of the snake-headed woman. In the end, whether she is a product of science or a myth come to life, she has certainly taken on the role of avenging feminine principle.
The penis removal scenes are graphic, no doubt about that, but this aside Teeth is a very well made and surprisingly thoughtful film.
Nah, come to think of it: not a guilty pleasure, at all.
*Holy shit! I just looked up this ‘myth ‘and I’m getting the feeling that this condition exists! There are doctors and sufferers on youtube talking about it. When they actually showed you the teeth I switched off. Somebody tell me that was a hoax. If it wasn’t I’m joining that celibacy group. Sorry for jeering at you, folks!