Thursday, October 28, 2021

Night Teeth – review

Director: Adam Randall

Release date: 2021

Contains spoilers

I watched Night Teeth a couple of days before sitting down to write this review and I am still undecided about how I feel with regards the film – perhaps this review writing will resolve that. I mean, beyond the awful title because it really isn’t a great title.

But let’s not judge a book by its cover nor a film by its name. The film struggles to decide what it is – action film, it hides much of the action because perhaps it is aimed at a younger audience but then we see bloody aftermaths. Suddenly it is a romance, but the romance feels off despite a chemistry between the actors. But it looks good – the neon colour palate working well.

neon wonderland

It starts off with a car driving around LA and illustrations matted to it and the nightscape tell the story as a narrator sets the scenes. Vampires exist, they are everywhere and there are 3 rules (the first two being very Vampire the Masquerade): 1) do not let humans know they exist, 2) don’t feed on the unwilling and 3) never enter Boyle Heights without permission. The last is due to a truce with humans, during which the vampires have become rich and powerful – I’ll return to the truce and where the film lost me with it later.

finding the crew

At a launderette, Maria (Ash Santos, Thirst) is doing her thing when someone enters, causing her to start. It is Jay (Raúl Castillo) her boyfriend. They leave together but, on the drive home, a car screeches up at lights; on seeing that the driver is Victor (Alfie Allen), Jay grabs a gun from the glove box. The lights turn green and Jay drives off pursued by Victor. Jay goes to warn ‘his guys’ and tells Maria to go to her brother’s. Inside the building, Jay’s crew are hung dead from the ceiling, outside the car door has been torn off and Maria has been taken.

Jorge Lendeborg Jr. as Benny

We then meet Benny (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), a laidback skateboarding student who makes money selling essays to buy DJ kit. He is also Jay’s brother but he knows nothing of vampires (Jay is part of the Boyle Heights crew that has the truce with the vampires). Jay works as a chauffeur for hire but, given the events, will have to pass on work. Benny suggests covering for him – denied until he shows he has a suit (worn with white sneakers) and a desperate Jay takes him up on the offer.

Blaire and Zoe

The two women he has to drive are Zoe (Lucy Fry, Vampire Academy) and Blaire (Debby Ryan). He has to take them to a series of parties – however they are vampires and work for Victor. Victor has declared war on the vampire bosses and he and the women are hitting all the bosses in one night. They purposefully hired Jay – not knowing they’d got his little brother. Benny starts to feel something is wrong and then discovers the truth… There also develops a romance between him and Blaire (I’ll get back to that).

killing the donors

So, we see low level killing – like murdering a couple of blood donors in a vampire hotel to breach the truce, but slaughters – such as the first party Zoe and Blaire hit – are often off screen. As the film develops Benny, who knows too much, is drawn along and into the fray. Into the mix come the Night Legion, a group of vampire hunters, and the film didn’t handle them brilliantly truth be told. These are trained, well equipped and an army… but there is the truce… One says that LA was off limits but with the truce wavering its open season. It made little sense – the truce only wavered the night before, how did they know (before the vampire bosses in LA) and get there in numbers? A line suggesting Jay called them might have helped – but its clear he didn’t. They were just an additional plot peril and a deus ex machina to extricate Benny and the primary vampires from a fight with other vampires at the end.

in sunlight

The lore is limited. The vampires allegedly feed on willing donors but Victor has a room with imprisoned people who are farmed for their blood. Stabbing the heart (or crossbowing it) causes a vigorous dusting effect, unless the vampire is needed for exposition and then they become veiny and need blood but hang on for a bit (I guess you could argue that it just nicks the heart). The Night Legion fire crossbow bolts that have some form of incendiary. Sunlight causes a violent reaction that looked really good. Blood exchange is needed to turn and the vampires are fast and strong.

Alfie Allen as Victor

The performance by Jorge Lendeborg Jr. was excellent – the Benny character was the glue that held the film together – and there was some real chemistry exhibited between him and Debby Ryan but the script let that down. I didn’t overly buy why she would suddenly fall for the dumb kid driving them or why he would – whilst learning vampires are real, seeing her feed, witnessing murder, his brother being a target, and being attacked from multiple corners – think romantically and even take a moment whilst they got their sexy on. This is a kid who, it is intimated, is a virgin and inexperienced, is still in school (and sheltered from the reality of the world by his brother) and it takes place over the course of a few hours, rather than days or weeks – it didn’t gel.

Megan Fox was under used

As the romance becomes plot vital it is a shame. Indeed the long running time let the audience down with both reduced action, which could have been there, and with sparse narrative that could have shaped the story better. Also wasted was the presence of Megan Fox (Jennifer’s Body), who plays a blink and you’ll miss her vampire boss, who is there to reprimand Victor, allow him to spout off and then die (again the deaths are off screen, with us seeing Victor holding up the severed ear of a bodyguard, taken off screen, and the blood spattered aftermath of his fight with the bosses but not the event).

stabbed in the heart

This looks great – but there is too much style over substance. The under-explored presence of the Night Legion, the missing action during the attacks on the bosses, the improbable romance (despite the actors’ chemistry), under used star and what is so blooming special about Boyle Heights. All conspire to make this poorer than it should be. With the last, as the location is a notable Chicano/Mexican-American neighbourhood and with the vampires being primarily white (and rich) there was a subtext that could have been played to great effect but really wasn’t. It’s ok but, as I’ve written this review, I have talked myself into it being just above average and mostly because it looks nice. 5.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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