This pairing is organized not by director or even by subgenre but by teeth. I’ll be honest, it amuses me greatly to be able to put Jaws (1975, dir. Steven Spielberg) next to Teeth (2007, dir. Mitchell Lichtenstein). One is the quintessential shark attack movie; the other is a movie about vagina dentata. I love them both.
The poster alone is a striking reminder of the iconic nature of Jaws. Everyone knows it, even if they haven’t seen the movie. Everyone also knows the score. And everyone knows at least one line from the film:
Jaws is more than these things, though. Like The Birds, Jaws does not provide a clear answer for why the shark attacks, making its presence and its threat less easily manageable and more dangerous.
Chief Brody: I used to hate the water.
Hooper: I can’t imagine why.
It is a film about how we as humans deal with threats from the nonhuman world and about the our anxieties regarding those parts of the world (like the ocean) that we don’t fully understand. It features science lectures, a Spielbergian concern with fathers and family, and relatively little blood or gore, especially given how much I (and others I know) were afraid of it growing up.
Teeth, as a total change of pace, is a weird little movie about vagina dentata. It has a sense of humor about its topic, but it also includes some truly horrifying moments, especially if you are squeamish about sex and/or penises. There are more penises in this film than I think I’ve seen in any film that wouldn’t count as pornographic. However, they are all severed. I taught this movie in my horror class a couple of years ago and we had a productive debate about whether or not the film is feminist, so your take on it may vary from mine, but I think it is at least not anti-feminist and it is exploring some very feminist territory. I sometimes hesitate to recommend this one because it’s definitely not a movie for everybody, but I just think it’s great.
Dr. Godfrey: It’s true! Vagina dentata! Vagina dentata! Vagina dentata!
Earlier countdown entries:
- Night of the Living Dead, dir. George Romero (1968)
- Dawn of the Dead, dir. George Romero (1978)
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers, dir. Philip Kaufman (1978)
- Get Out, dir. Jordan Peele (2017)
- Hellraiser, dir. Clive Barker (1987)
- Psycho, dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1960)
- The Birds, dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1963)