Tooth and Nail:
Clichés, faulty logic and a bleak view of humanity sound like the terrible basis for a movie; am I right? Well, maybe not a horror movie, but in those cases, the clichés and faulty logic usually cause groans of exasperation. The more I think of it, the above ingredients might make an OK flick - if directed and produced by Lloyd Kaufman! But Troma horror parodies aside, Tooth and Nail - lucky recipient of the After Dark Horrorfest imprimatur - really suffers from being clichéd, illogical and giving no credit to those people we call 'people.' People are the ones who watch movies, too, right?
A small group of post-apocalyptic survivors hole up in an abandoned hospital, hoping to restart society while fending off marauding cannibals called Rovers. From that mix-'n'-match plot we get characters with names like Dakota, Darwin, Shepherd and various models of automobiles (Viper, Neon, Ford and Torino). Sullen bickering and languor are the order of the day as they haphazardly do little but bemoan the fact that their TV careers are unsatisfying or over (Rider Strong and Rachel Miner are the two top-liners). Nighttime cannibal sieges likely inspired by rage that humans have lost all creativity in naming themselves are followed by quiet introspective moments of lullaby singing and whispered desperation. Such desperation is borne of the fact that we've seen this all so many times before, from Assault on Precinct 13 to Aliens, to name a couple examples from column 'A.'
A few slaughteriffic moments (especially the climactic bloodbath) are dutifully trotted out, but even with quick-cut editing seem lethargic. But why all the cannibalistic hubbub, anyway? It seems that the world literally ran out of gas earlier than governments and automakers had anticipated. Of course, total bloody chaos erupts, resisting all attempts to restore order, and soon the world population is reduced by more than two-thirds, or the approximate population of Earth in the year 1915. Personally, I have trouble buying the fact that that many people can't keep their shit together long enough to avoid random cannibalism as a self-defeating last resort. Then again, Michael Madsen is one of the cannibals, a fact dire enough to bring down any government, and as the final voiceover says, laws are the only things keeping us from growing our hair, donning floor-length leather coats, naming ourselves Mongrel and grabbing farm implements with which to eat each other.
Grim, depopulated atmosphere and exuberant stabbings are about all there is to recommend Tooth and Nail, but to enjoy them you'll have to look past the paint-by-numbers plot, rampant lunacy inherent in the central conceit and overall lack of urgency in the acting department. It's as if a bunch of college seniors are having trouble getting motivated to organize that final late-May group project, until one of them paints herself like Daryl Hannah in Clan of the Cave Bear and starts shooting cannibals with a crossbow. Our final treat, again totally illogical, is the one trapped Rover popping up and laughing straight into the camera, even though no one is around to appreciate it. It almost makes me think Tooth and Nail is a spoof. I sure hope not.
Presented in16 x 9 widescreen format, (1.78:1 ratio) Tooth and Nail sports fine atmosphere, with lots of grim, deep black spots, spooky lighting and washed out but natural looking color. Regrettably, the mastering job is not quite up to snuff, mild haloing appears occasionally and some details (especially where movement in the background is concerned) become a bit lost and fuzzy. Overall it is a decent looking picture, but not as clear and crisp as it could be.
English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio is available. I found the audio to be strong and clean, with dialog well recorded, mastered, and easy to discern through my set's speakers.
As with the superior (and less serious) Lake Dead, English and Spanish Subtitles hold hands with English Closed Captions in a friendly alliance of plebian extras, while about 20 minutes of Miss Horrorfest Contest Webisodes are the only real extra to be had. For what they're worth, I'll say I dislike web content editing and filming techniques - too quick, too flashy and too eager to conceal a dearth of content. Personally, I'd like to see more (at least when bandwidth isn't a concern) of these delightfully devious maidens and their stupid trials on their journey to horror stardom. For the most part, they are hot - especially the twins, (or whatever they are) can't get enough, but the webisodes don't deliver.
Proving again the old adage that you can't judge a book by its cover, Tooth and Nail fails to live up to the groovy packaging and seal-of-approval of the After Dark Horrorfest. Its cliché-filled, lackluster plot doesn't generate much tension, while the young cast's performances only reinforce the dearth of ideas, thrills and chills. I'm looking for something either straight-ahead, or something with new ideas, and the only new idea here is the ran-out-of-gas apocalypse, which just seems implausible. Nicely violent and gory, Tooth and Nail struggles against its own Syd Field-type screenplay (and the brief inclusion of Michael Madsen) to ultimately founder as an unsurprising bore. Rent It, but only out of extreme desperation.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com