With all due respect to (former) fellow Nutmegger 50 Cent and featured vocalist Eminem, allow me to start with Night Teeth review with a bit of verse.
Take some Collateral and Vampire: The Masquerade, and you mix them up in a pot
Sprinkle a little John Wick on top, and what the fuck do you got?
You got the latest and blandest bloodsuckers tied up in a knot
The most average of this Netflix Halloween slush, like it or not.
Night Teeth Bares Its Fangs, Rarely Takes A Bite
In other words, Night Teeth exists. Like many (most?) movies, it’s fine. It doesn’t deliver the quick sugary fun of recent Black as Night despite having a similar “toss in all the mythical clichés” looseness. However, it also isn’t a bogged down self-serious slog like the vampire vs. terrorists on a plane Blood Red Sky.
Alright, enough about what it isn’t.
What Night Teeth is is the tale doomed from jump street Benny (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.). The designated “one who’s going to make it,” Benny idolizes his older brother Jay (Raúl Castillo), a sort of local big man with a vague whiff of gang leader. This is the kind of movie where that faint scent turns out to mean that Jay is the leader of a gang of humans who have reached a truce with various sects of vampires and vampire hunters to slice up the city like a pie.
It’s a fun concept, the one that gives the movie its occasional John Wick-ness. The idea that the world is both exactly what we think AND there is an ongoing tenuous truce between humans and vampires that underpins it all has tons of dramatic potential.
In a time where conspiracy theories have gotten increasingly detached from reality and actively dangerous, there’s a certain throwback appeal to a secret society conspiracy where most of the players mainly want to hang out and throw big parties in mansions, hotels, and clubs. Sadly Teeth fills in the blanks too slow and then all at once. As a result, it never takes out of the concept for a real spin.
When Jay can’t take a driving gig, Benny happily agrees to fill in. Unfortunately, Benny quickly regrets signing up as the two women he’s driving, Blaire (Debby Ryan) and Zoe (Lucy Fry), are no simple party animals. Blaire enjoys spinning Benny in circles as he tries desperately to be a friendly and helpful driver, taking his every attempt at bland pleasantries and implying they’re acts of latent sexism.
Zoe, on the other hand, is all self-entitled unpleasantness. She doesn’t bother playing with him for her enjoyment; she’d rather blunt force him into recognizing his lower status. And then he realizes they’re vampires on a mission from Zoe’s partner Victor (Alfie Allen) to upset the whole vampire hierarchy. The evening really goes downhill from there.
Once more, Teeth has a bunch of intriguing threads here. Blaire isn’t wrong. Benny is positively oozing with “positive” sexism in their first conversation, all stuttering and stumbling statements that can’t separate ordinary human decency from “I’m a man here to protect you,” chivalry. Zoe’s casual cruelty carries plenty of class, physical beauty, and racial/ethnic implications as she is classically rich, pretty, and white. At the same time, Benny is Latinx, styled to be more average-looking, and coded as lower-middle-class at most. But, again, Teeth only takes them out, shows them to you, and then leaves them lying around, unused.
Writer Brent Dillon seems to have a real talent for world-building and is clearly an idea man. His dialogue isn’t stellar, but he has a sly sense of humor that Randall matches well with visuals. Unfortunately, there’s just a niggling sense of, “wait, that’s all you’re going to do with that?”
Thankfully, all of Zoe and Blaire’s targets have planned to throw big parties or hit the clubs on this night, meaning plenty of neon-soaked set pieces. Cinematographer Eben Bolter and director Adam Randall make great use of them with an intelligent sense of geography and a camera that conveys both the chaos of the scenes and the overconfident strutting of our deathless bloodsuckers.
Viewers coming to the film looking for a Megan Fox comeback should manage their expectations. She acquits herself well enough, but her role is a little more than a cameo. However, for fans who associate her with teen/young adult roles, as in Jennifer’s Body or *shudder* Transformers, there’s definitely a bit of fun in the way she asserts herself as fully an adult, reminding you that, oh yeah, she’s in her mid-30s.
In general, the acting is good. Lendeborg Jr. has average guy charm down pat, and while he never really generates sexual heat with Ryan, you definitely can buy him as the sort of guy who would care enough about someone he just met to get deeply in over his head in a hurry.
However, I specifically want to single out one performance. Alexander Ludwig as Rocko, the final vampire boss the women need to pick off, brings delightfully off-kilter energy to his character. He has this sort of spaced-out surfer guy thing going on, which nicely contrasts with most of the other vamps we meet who all carry more upper crust or Eurotrash vibes.
He also, ironically, is the only vampire, except our lead duo, who exhibits any kind of heart. At one point, he implies some sort of psychic powers, and Benny blatantly fakes agreeing. Rocko picks up on it and becomes legitimately hurt. Ludwig’s eyes go glassy and his whole posture becomes wounded. It’s, arguably, far better than this movie deserves. He’ll be dead in two minutes more of screentime.
That’s the story of Night Teeth all over. It looks good; it suggests some fascinating concepts and themes. But the moment it seems a hold of something genuinely worth pursuing, it is off chasing the next shiny object.