Issues about sex education in schools have been a hot topic for a while. Let's face it: many teenagers and even younger kids are having sex, or at least thinking about it. Be it the media or peer pressure, young students are doing it up. Problems like STDs and teen pregnancy are almost epidemic in some areas.
The question becomes how do we deal with it. What do we say to teens, how do we teach them, and is there to reduce the rampant and rampaging sexuality. Some progressive personalities suggest passing out condoms to sexually active teens. Some more puritanical people push abstinence.
I offer up this film, which I can only describe, as being very much like a Tim Burton film, minus all the inspired art direction and costume design. No. This film is a lot colder in style and more real, even as it borders on the surreal.
Yet, like Burton's film, we start out with a slightly charming and even romantic yarn that quickly unravels into a strange, horror tale, a fantasy that's at once satirical and has undercurrents of comedy, the darkest and most twisted of comedy. Burton may not have invented it, but he certainly became a master of blending horror and comedy.
Writer and director Michael Lichtenstein, unknowingly or not, takes a page from Tim Burton's book, and creates a character unlike Edward Scissorhands, an innocent figure who by no fault of her own has a bodily trait that makes her unique but can also make her deadly.
When Lichtenstein approached actresses for the role, many were apprehensive about taking on the part. Jess Weixler eventually took on the role of Dawn. As the film opens, we learn that even from a young age, Dawn has a defense against boys who pick on her.
As a teenager, Dawn is a good, modest and very chaste girl who gives speeches that promote abstinence among her peers. She is part of a group of teens in her high school that takes a vow of chastity until marriage. They all wear what's called a Promise Ring.
This is based on a real thing. Yet, it doesn't mean teens don't urges and don't face temptations. Dawn certainly does. She meets the new cute boy named Toby, and the moment she sees him. Heavenly music starts to play, as she stares longingly into his eyes.
Dawn and Toby start to date. They are obviously an uncomfortable tension that grows between them. Dawn, however, is a virgin and she wants to maintain her purity in that regard. Late night fantasies are really pulling her to break her chastity vow.
She doesn't want to fight it anymore. In the medieval days, women were given chastity belts to prevent any man from taking a girl's virginity. Dawn doesn't have that, but she does something somewhat similar and certainly more painful to intruders.
Have you ever heard of vagina dentata? If not, think of it as a Venus flytrap, but only in the vagina, a penis flytrap, if you will. The title of this film doesn't refer to the bicuspids in Dawn's mouth. No. It's more like the incisors in another of Dawn's bodily openings.
The revelation of Dawn's condition is by far the most horrific, the most terrifying, and the most cringe-inducing thing I've probably seen in my life. It's made ever the more sick and sinsister, as Lichtenstein leads up to it with a very beautiful and seductive, swimming scene next to a gorgeous waterfall.
It appears sweet and loving. The next thing you know, there's severed genitalia turned crab food, phallic-shaped stalagtites, and blood. Though it's a mutation that's extreme and rare, with the STDs that are out there, the same effect can be achieved, if teens copulate with the wrong person.
Sadly, after the shock value wears off, the subversiveness of the whole thing starts to subside. Tim Burton would not have let it wane. He would have taken it further. The film really loses steam toward the end.
The only saving grace is John Hensley who plays Dawn's nasty, drugged-up, oversexed, tatooed, step brother Brad who is rude, crude, and in love with Dawn. His one and only desire is to engage in sexual relations with Dawn.
Hensley, who has done consistently good work on FX's "Nip/Tuck," churns out another great performance here. Brad is bitter and walking lust, the polar opposite, a perfect foil for Dawn. My only criticism is that there weren't more scenes with him. His conflict with Dawn was the most powerful. That being said, if Dawn is a virgin, then what does that make Brad?
The climax to which is obvious, and one you can see a mile coming. It's therefore lame, and would have been better if Lichenstein had taken the reverse route. By the end, I was left with the impression that this nun-like character was now either going to be a slut or become some kind of black widow. I wasn't sure.
Three Stars out of Five
Rated R for disturbing sexuality and drug use
Running Time: 1 hr. and 28 mins.