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NIGHT TEETH (2021) Review

J-L reviews Netflix’s NIGHT TEETH calling it “a bloody good time that packs a punch – or fifty.” Catch the film on Netflix from October 20.

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Night Teeth (Netflix)

Directed by Adam Randall, Night Teeth stars Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Debby Ryan and Lucy Fry. The film also features appearances by Megan Fox and Alfie Allen. Night Teeth streams on Netflix from October 20, 2021.

Synopsis

To earn some extra cash, quirky college student Benny (Lendeborg, Jr.) moonlights as a chauffeur for one night. His task: drive two mysterious young women (Ryan and Fry) around Los Angeles for a night of party hopping. Taken captive by his clients’ charm, he soon learns that his passengers have their own plans for him – and an insatiable thirst for blood. As his night spins out of control, Benny is thrust into the middle of a clandestine war that pits rival tribes of vampires against the protectors of the human world, led by his brother (Raúl Castillo), who will stop at nothing to send them back into the shadows. With sunrise fast approaching, Benny is forced to choose between fear and temptation if he wants to stay alive and save the City of Angels.

Review

Swooping onto Netflix this spooky season, the new genre piece from Adam Randall Night Teeth lands on the streaming service on 20th October. Randall’s previous mainstream work has been somewhat divisive amongst critics and general audiences, but his latest outing is likely to be generally received as a success.

The London-born director provides a surprisingly refreshing take on the vampire genre here, making clever use of the vampire mythology whereby the events occur over the course of a single night on a romp across Los Angeles.

The contemporary spin is based around clans of misfit vampires, as opposed to familial groups, with a mafia-like dynamic of gang culture and conflict. At times, it is almost impossible to not conjure up memories of John Wick – a man out for vengeance, confrontations in nightclubs, and glorious fighting and action sequences. Even further still, Alfie Allen appears as a reckless mob powerbroker, but even at the most basic level, the fantastical approach to a contemporary piece certainly parallels Chad Stahelski’s series.

Set in Los Angeles, the film has a sense of flair and character from the outset. The piece opens with a visually engaging sequence that outlines the rules and history of vampires in LA, blending the mythology with the modern as the lore is embossed over the background footage of a fancy car driving through the streets at night.

The stylish cinematography and slick editing are not a trick, but a genuine treat. Every scene looks stunning and pops, thanks to the work of DP Eben Bolter. From the neon lighting and colour palette to the clean aesthetic, the visuals evoke Blindspotting. 

The soundtrack is trendy and has a complete vibe. Interestingly, it was intentionally devised so that each neighborhood has its own distinct sound, with different genres of music clashing and contrasting, which was partially inspired by the Grand Theft Auto video game franchise. Elsewhere, the original score is tense and fantastical, with an almost synthwave style that at once feels both retro and modern, which is an apt approach given the modern vampire tale and also because of Benny’s interest in music production.

The performances are strong too. Debby Ryan and Lucy Fry are the obvious standouts. The pair have an absolute blast and exhibit genuine chemistry as enforcers Blaire and Zoe, respectively. The joy that they are clearly having whilst playing these characters is truly infectious and they command your attention whenever they are on screen. Fry is the more showy and commanding of the duo, but Ryan offers some real emotional beats and an arguably more deeply layered turn.

Meanwhile, Jorge Lendeborg Jr. as Benny makes for a likeable lead whose charm pulls you in and whose oblivious naivety serves as the perfect means through which the viewer can be kept in the dark about certain aspects and learn about these as the film progresses.

The wider ensemble is also consistent, with some standout actors in more minor but nonetheless captivating roles. Alexander Ludwig as Rocko steals the show in his scenes, whilst Megan Fox and Sydney Sweeney are great in their cameos.

The screenplay manages to balance its family, romance, comedy, thriller, horror and mystery elements surprisingly well, especially given the fairly concise runtime. Sure, certain narrative developments can feel somewhat predictable, but only because the progressions feel so natural and unforced. The few tropes can largely be overlooked too since the narrative is immensely fun and intensely gripping, yet is supported by a surprisingly emotional and heartfelt core.

Despite its extravagant mythical story contents, the film itself is overwhelmingly minimalistic. The visual effects are limited and the supernatural presence is not overplayed, but instead feels visceral and grounded. This decision works heavily in the film’s favour and makes the sporadic VFX usage more emotionally and narratively impactful and meaningful. Similarly, Victor’s superhuman ability is made all the more impactful due to Allen’s contrastively relatively slender stature and physique. This effect is enhanced by some impressive sound design and choreography of his actions.

The film certainly concludes in a way that could set up a future film or even demonstrate the potential to spawn a wider franchise, which would be much appreciated. Whether a direct sequel following on from the events of this film or perhaps even a prequel, exploring the history and conflict between humans and vampires from recent history or even further back, there are certainly many interesting possibilities to be had now that the mythos has been established.

A sequel could kind of go in all kinds of directions, utilising the world as a sandbox in which to explore and play around, with many different avenues (of Los Angeles or elsewhere) to navigate and traverse, maybe tapping into different genres, directions and narratives.

Verdict

Ultimately, Night Teeth is a bloody good time that packs a punch – or fifty – and certainly has bite! It is well worth checking out this Halloween, especially if you are not a big fan of intense, jump-scare heavy horror, or are simply looking for a drama-thriller-romance with a fantastical edge.


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