Monday, April 30, 2012

Tooth and Nail (2007)

Title: Tooth and Nail (2007)

Director: Mark Young

Cast: Michael Madsen, Vinnie Jones, Rider Strong, Michael Kelly


I’ve noticed that filmmakers behind post apocalyptic films always try to add their own twist to them. For example Stake Land (2010) mixes vampires with the apocalypse, Waterworld (1995) is the apocalypse brought on after the polar caps have melted, Tank Girl (1995) is the ultimate grrrl movie while still remaining post apocalyptic, The Terminator franchise adds time travel to the mix…and so on. With Tooth and Nail, the film that I’ll be discussing today, they’ve gone and mixed a post apocalyptic film with the a-typical slasher film. The result is interesting, though not altogether innovative.

On Tooth and Nail we are presented with the idea that the world has gone to hell because one day we ran out of gas. In this movie having no gas for cars or electricity equals total world destruction. Now if that’s believable or not doesn’t really matter, what matters is the point that the film is trying to make. How obsessed our society is with oil; how much of our society depends on it and what will happen if we ever run out of it. These are all interesting ideas the film presents us with; no doubt. I’m all for using cleaner and safer forms of energy; oil will have to go at some point. So after that’s been established we meet a group of survivors who call themselves ‘The Foragers’. Basically, they are a small group of people who’ve gathered in an abandoned hospital. Together they are trying to regain normality. They even have a leader, a scholar type by the name of ‘Darwin’ who wants’ to attempt to rebuild the human race. He’s got a job for everyone to do; one picks the wood, the other one gathers water and so forth. Unfortunately, Darwin isn’t thinking about ways to protect his group. And so ‘Viper’ the hot headed dude in the group is all worried about what will happen if someone comes with bad intentions. And he is right! They should be preparing. You see, a part of humanity has adapted to this awful end of the world scenario and now the’ve started feeding on their own kind! That’s right! There’s a group of cannibals on the loose! it isn’t long before these cannibals show up at the hospitals door steps…and they’ve brought their hunger with them!

Tooth and Nail was part of the ‘8 Film to Die For’ that the folks at After Dark Films started back in 2006. These After Dark films are hit and miss bunch; you might catch a fairly good one, or a really crappy one. They tell you that these films were ‘too scary’ to be released in theaters, when in reality they were simply not deemed worthy enough for theatrical release. But this doesn’t make them any less fun to watch.  I’ve enjoyed some of the films they’ve released like for example The Gravedancers (2005) a film from Mike Mendez the director behind the demonic ultra cheap-o good time The Convent (2000). Tooth and Nail was part of the second batch of ‘8 Films to Die For’ that came out in 2007, and it’s neither good, nor bad. It simply is what it is, a post apocalyptic slasher with a couple of ultra gory deaths.

The problem with some ultra low budget post apocalyptic films is that because of their budgetary limitations, it is often times difficult for them to convey the end of the world. It takes a truly gifted and imaginative filmmaker to pull this of on a small budget; but it’s not impossible, it can be done. Just look at Six String Samurai (1998). Often times directors will choose to shoot their post apocalyptic films in the dessert because it’s easier, you don’t have worry about showing decaying buildings or anything, just the dessert. Kind of like the same way that many slasher films take place in the woods, because filming in the woods is cheap and it cuts down costs.

Unfortunately Tooth & Nail takes place in a city, and the buildings don’t look post-apocalyptic enough. Tooth & Nail does good by starting the film with real life news reel footage of chaos in the world, which is a good trick used by a post apocalyptic films to convey chaos and disorder in the world; for example Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead (2004) does this. We even get some cool shots of burnt decaying corpses inside of smashed up cars. The problem for me with Tooth and Nail is that the characters in the film simply look too squeaky clean to inhabit a post apocalyptic world. This is the same problem I had with another post apocalyptic film I saw recently called Carriers (2009). Characters just look too clean! In Tooth & Nail even the interior of the building that the foragers stay in looks too new, too clean, too organized, not enough rot and decay. A post apocalyptic world needs to be rotting, old, decomposed, not squeaky clean. Guys need to have long beards, girls should have their hairs all messed up and not wear any make up. Everyone should be smelly and dirty. But not on Tooth and Nail where the characters seem to have time to even shave.

Too pretty for the apocalypse

Slasher films aren’t by definition an intelligent bunch of films, quite the contrary, these are films that simply exist to scare you with the killer hiding behind the shadows and shock you with their grizzly, gory deaths, nothing more. In this sense, Tooth and Nail succeeded because the deaths are pretty gory. This film actually reminded me of a slasher film from the eighties, you know, the kind that doesn’t cut away when the time comes to show some gruesomeness. It seems to me that those days are bygone; American horror films of today are no longer truly gory, at least not the theatrically released ones. They may try and be, but they always cut away at the exact moment when we’re supposed to be seeing some gore. Best example of this was that ultra shitty Friday the 13th remake (2009). I hated that one because every time Jason’s machete was about to inflict some damage, the film would cut away to something else. Tooth and Nail doesn’t do that, the gore is there and it’s plentiful. Unfortunately, when that’s the only thing that’s good about your movie, then you’ve got a pretty shallow movie. I’m not saying Tooth and Nail has nothing to say, it’s just that it says very little. As a bonus we get Vinnie Jones and Michael Madsen playing two bloodthirsty cannibals, but their performances in this movie are closer to cameos, since they only appear sporadically through out the film. Madsen and Vinnie don’t really contribute anything to the film. The main gripe I had with this movie was that its villains though vicious, had no personality whatsoever. Personality wise, the good guys themselves where just as bland as their villains.

The real idea, the real theme that Tooth and Nail is rooted in is the quintessential ‘survival of the fittest’. In this film what we really meet is a bunch of weak individuals; even the guys in this group aren’t the strong type save for one, the one called ‘Viper’, the hot headed one. What these characaters don’t realize is that civilization is long gone and that the world they are living in has changed. They actually recognize that they are the weak link, that athe bad guys are stronger, more numerous. Hell, even knowing the have weapons, they still dont have faith in themselves, they live afraid to fight, afraid of change, which is something we should never be afraid to do. Fight for whats right, for our survival.  I also liked that at one point, all males disappear and it’s up to the women to fend for themselves in this big bad world. The femaels in the film discuss how much they'd prefer the stronger men of the group to protect them, but at one point, the protection of men dissapears, and then it's up to the ladies to show they have what it takes to survive in this world on their own. They stop depending on the men for protection when they realize that no one is going to save them, but themselves. It's now a dog eat dog world and if you don’t adapt, you die. And this is really the one idea that I did like about the film.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 



Anonymous said...

My question about this movie Tooth and Nails has to do with its artwork DVD cover which shows the bony skeleton of a winged creature with a human skull for a head. Its shaped like a moth. This seems to be a Deaths head moth which is an insect which has a skull like marking on its back and which is shown on the DVD cover to Silence of the Lambs. Does such a creature as this appear in the movie Tooth and Nails? It seems to represent death, decay, entropy.

Franco Macabro said...

No this creature doesnt appear on the film, its more of a symbolic poster, like you say, death, decay and entropy. It goes with the films themes.


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