Vampire folklore has existed since the 17th century; yet, to this day, creators are drawn to weave their own vampire tales. This year especially, between horror favorites like American Horror Story and Mike Flanagan’s Midnight Mass, it feels like new takes on vampires are impossible to escape.
Maybe creators think we can empathize more with vampires as a result of the pandemic, even though we’re now all itching to get out of our metaphorical coffins.
Regardless, Netflix’s new horror-thriller, Night Teeth, aims to tell yet another vampire story. This thriller is so original that it features “hot vampires who are somehow rich, drink blood to survive, and will burn in the sunlight.” (At least Twilight brought new meaning to why vampires have to stay in the shadows: they sparkle!)
Netflix Premiere: October 20, 2021
Director: Adam Randall
Cast: Debby Ryan, Jorge Lendeberg Jr., Lucy Fry, Raul Castillo, Alfie Allen, Megan Fox
Writer: Brent Dillon
1h 47m, Rated TV-14
'Night Teeth' has glitzy vampires with poor character development.
Night Teeth follows Benny — a dorky, hopeful EDM producer — as he subs in for his brother on a chauffeur job. His brother Jay, for some unknown reason, is burdened with taking down the vampires who have violated “the truce” in Boyle Heights.
What Jay doesn’t realize, though, is that he puts Benny in direct danger. Benny’s “job” for the night is to escort two sirenic vampires around Los Angeles, abetting their mission to feed off the blood of innocent people and take control of L.A. for their boss, rebel boy Victor (Alfie Allen).
Despite its heist-like plot and grisly L.A. setting, Night Teeth doesn’t add anything fresh to the slew of existing vampire narratives. Every “jump scare” is half-baked and expected. The unoriginal vampire feedings have lost their terror factor following centuries of similar effects in cinema, literature, television, and live theatre. (That said, how the vampires die in Night Teeth is admittedly pretty cool).
Night Teeth boasts brief moments of intrigue. Megan Fox’s two-minute cameo as girlboss Grace brings a wry sense of humor the rest of the film is missing. It would be much more satisfying to see how Megan’s character actually factors into the plot. It’s clear that the writers added Grace in to give us spicy Megan Fox — capitalizing on her celebrity and reducing her to mere publicity points.
Lucy Fry’s Zoe is a two-dimensional “mean girl” whose vulnerability we only realize at the very end, and by then, we have little to no empathy for her. Jorge Lendeborg Jr.'s Benny suffers from unnatural scriptwriting, with far too many slang terms thrown in for Benny to sound like an actual human being. It's also not believable that the attractive EDM-hopeful is as much of a dork as the film suggests.
Raul Castillo’s Jay is another stereotype: the dark protector who refuses to share his secrets with anyone else. Like we haven’t seen that character in every action movie ever... Except we normally find out where those secrets come from!
In Night Teeth, the central conflict (violating or protecting the “truce” between the vampires and the Latinx community in Boyle Heights) exists as a device without reason. The state of the truce propels the story forward, but viewers are left wondering how the truce came to be and why the central characters are so concerned about it.
Debby Ryan’s Blair is a refreshingly rare three-dimensional character; she is perhaps the only character with a semblance of subtext. Blair is the “nice girl” with a thirst for blood and a desire to impress her best friend, Zoe. We can see the internal struggle on Debby’s face throughout the film, and her arc by the end is totally earned. Debby cuts through the choppy lines and mediocre acting with an easy charm and believability.
There are glimmers of something deeper beneath the surface of Night Teeth, as the film aims to compare the vampires to the mafia. There’s also a scene in which the cop, who is on Victor’s side without explanation, almost arrests Benny, a person of color, when he tries to ask for help. Night Teeth takes an easy opportunity to experiment with racial dynamics within the L.A.P.D. police force but leaves any possibility for deeper meaning at the curb.
Grace and Eva joke about male impulsivity and stupidity in an effort to make this a "feminist" vampire romp. Yet, women don't even come out on top as the power players. Their quips are no more than an ironic exchange, moments before they’re overpowered (by a man, no less). At best, the dark techno musical undertones and glittery scenes of nighttime L.A. make Night Teeth a great movie to throw on in the background of a Halloween party.