In Netflix's 'Leave the World Behind' One of the Characters Leaves His Teeth Behind — Why?

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Dec. 14 2023, Published 1:57 p.m. ET

Charlie Evans and Farrah Mackenzie
Source: Netflix

Charlie Evans and Farrah Mackenzie in 'Leave The World Behind'

The Gist:

  • Netflix's Leave The World Behind is an apocalyptic movie that draws on present day fears.
  • In one scene, the character of Archie wakes up and begins pulling out his own teeth.
  • It could be the cause of a bug bite or a mysterious high pitch sound.
  • The film's director says the teeth scene is a nightmare within a nightmare.
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In Netflix's Leave The World Behind, based on the novel of the same name, we experience what a dystopian future might look like if it happened in the present. The film centers around a family who spontaneously decides to leave New York City in order to spend a relaxing weekend at a gorgeous house on Long Island. What happens during that time is anything but relaxing, as a series of bizarre events seem to signal the end of America as we know it.

Race, class, and even the hit series Friends plays a large part in creating an environment that is prime for emotional breakdowns at every turn. Just as the people involved are somewhat getting accustomed to one new normal, something else is thrown into the mix. In one deeply upsetting scene, body horror takes center stage as a character wakes up to a disturbing discovery. Why did Archie lose his teeth in Leave The World Behind? Let's get into it.

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Charlie Evans
Source: Netflix (video still)

Charlie Evans as Archie in 'Leave The World Behind'

Why did Archie lose his teeth in 'Leave The World Behind?' Here's what the film says.

The first sign that something was very off, was when an oil tanker ran up on the beach where the vacationing family was trying to catch some rays. What makes this scene all the more disturbing, is the almost calm way in which the family addresses it later on. The matriarch, played by Julia Roberts, and her husband, Ethan Hawke, are far more shaken up than their children who proceed to play in the backyard pool of the house they are renting.

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When the owner of the Airbnb shows up with his daughter, it's obvious he knows more than he lets on. The story he tells the family involves not being able to climb the stairs to his apartment in New York City due to a bum knee, but we soon learn that he knew something was coming. Before the audience is privy to this information, we witness all manner of odd things that include but are not limited to a high pitch noise that brings everyone to their knees.

The first time this happens, Archie and his sister Rose are exploring the woods where he also gets bit by a mysterious bug. Soon, he is somewhat feverish but that appears to have passed the following morning when Archie wakes up and begins pulling out his teeth fairly easily. Otherwise feeling fine, Archie suggests perhaps it was the bug bite. The owner of the house jumps at this theory, suggesting he might have Lyme Disease.

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Charlie Evans
Source: Netflix (video still)

Archie hearing the noise

Another colorful character in the film is a doomsday prepper played by Kevin Bacon. When Archie begins vomiting black bile, the decision is made to go to this man's home in the hopes that he has stockpiled medicine. Kevin Bacon's character immediately zeroes in on the noise as the reason for Archie's symptoms. "It's not all that dissimilar to what happened in Cuba a while back," he explains. "Microwave weapons produce a kind of radiation that can be beamed out from sound. Some people lost their teeth."

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Did Archie lose his teeth from a bug bite, microwave weapons, or something else? The film's director weighs in.

In a conversation with Vulture, director Sam Esmail drilled down into the movie's more surreal imagery. It's hard to say what genre it belongs in. One minute it's a comedy, then it's a drama, and a few aerial camera turns later it's a horror movie. What it does beautifully, is create a kind of soul-crushing anxiety that stays with you long after the film ends.

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The second Archie begins losing his teeth, I kept expecting the reveal to be that this was a dream. After all, losing one's teeth is a classic slumber scenario. Evidently, I wasn't far from the truth. When asked about this scene, Sam provided a thoughtful answer. "I want to be careful how I answer this," he began. "I think it’s a nightmare. I think the movie’s a nightmare, and I think that, in nightmares, things happen that are inexplicable."

Knowing that this film is perhaps someone's horrible nightmare adds perspective to more than just the teeth scene. With this in mind, it's worth a rewatch.

Leave The World Behind is currently streaming on Netflix.

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