Night Teeth, 2021.
Directed by Adam Randall.
Starring Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Debby Ryan, Lucy Fry, Raúl Castillo, Alfie Allen, Sydney Sweeney, Megan Fox, Alexander Ludwig, Bryan Batt, Marlene Forte, Devyn Tyler, Martin Bats Bradford, Ash Santos, Hunter Burke, Lee Coc, Chase Yi, Robert Larriviere, Jaren Mitchell, and Nandy Martin.
A college student moonlighting as a chauffeur picks up two mysterious women for a night of party-hopping across LA. But when he uncovers their bloodthirsty intentions – and their dangerous, shadowy underworld – he must fight to stay alive.
Brief exposition establishes the Los Angeles of Night Teeth as a variant on mafia turf, with humans and vampires having come to a truce 100 years ago sorting out who is allowed to mingle and do business in what areas. It’s a spin on the five boroughs, which would be fine if director Adam Randall and screenwriter Brett Dillon felt compelled to build this world beyond generic tropes. The agreements keeping the peace boil down to these humans keeping the existence of vampires a secret (something that makes no sense if they have already been warring for decades before reaching peace), and of course, no unprovoked blood-feeding on humans.
Such tranquil days quickly end as Jay (Raul Castillo) is the target of an attack that sees his flame Maria (Ash Santos) kidnapped. Meanwhile, his half-brother Benny (a likable Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) is looking to make some extra cash to support his musical ambitions, offering to pick up chauffeur duties for Jay. Naturally, this gives Jay free time to figure out exactly what’s happening while throwing his enemies for a loop. We also get a sense that Benny would instead work hard to make those dreams come true, turning down invitations to party hard and do drugs while doing homework for fellow college students on the side for a fee.
Nevertheless, Benny is in for a seemingly never-ending night once he picks up his two clients (while posing as Jay) Blaire and Zoe (Debby Ryan and Lucy Fry, respectively), informing him of a series of stops they have to make my morning. Zoe is boisterous and talkative, offering up games of “Marry Fuck Kill,” whereas Blaire, certainly as ravishing well-dressed, and outgoing is the more levelheaded of the two still worth a barely working moral compass. Generally, they irritate Benny as he drives all over Los Angeles, with the job entering dangerous territory once he gets too nosy for his own good, stumbling into a hotel and walking in on them feasting on some flesh.
Blaire and Zoe have been ordered by Victor (a scenery-chewing Alfie Allen) to simultaneously take out the other four bosses by morning so you can have complete control over the territories. Communicating via phone, Victor is also chilling at home with another pair of seductively gorgeous vampires played by Megan Fox and Sydney Sweeney, who quite literally have nothing to do in this movie besides looking pretty. Consider it more of dual cameos, but they deserve more to work with, especially since they radiate nefarious bloodsucking charm more than the vampires accompanying Benny. Not to harp on it too much, but it’s so jarring that it’s easy to spend the rest of the movie wondering why they both took such small parts, doubly so for Sydney Sweeney, who is on the rise in star power.
The rest of Night Teeth is just a series of violent altercations with other bosses, often strangely framed from the perspective of Benny, with Blaire and Zoe ripping up cartilage and tearing out throats obscured in the background. Even when it comes to familiar genre action, the film is still a failure, although some locations make appealing use of neon lighting filtered through atmospheric shot selection. Once a separate faction is introduced to deal with the vampires breaking the truce in service of Victor, there is slightly more focus on action, but the special effects are wonky even if the concept is admirable (there’s a part where Victor takes a bullet to the head and slowly regenerates).
Aside from the ensuing violence, Night Teeth hones in on the doomed but growing friendship between Benny and Blaire, a dynamic that’s fine in theory considering they do have charming chemistry together. However, it’s yet another aspect sucking away time from what the film positioned itself to be in its opening. Regardless, the conclusion is anti-climactic and predictable, with a letdown final fight beyond some characters showing rare smarts for a horror movie. Night Teeth never escapes its paint-by-numbers narrative that contains no sense of entertaining thrills or identity.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at [email protected]
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