A vampire tale that often sucks but rarely bites
The world isn’t exactly short of vampire movies but as we’re nearing Halloween (at the time of writing) it makes sense that another should fall onto our streaming services.
In recent weeks, Amazon Prime released another in their ‘Welcome to the Blumhouse’ collection, Black as Night, a fairly decent teens vs vampires flick with an urban setting. And Netflix has now released Night Teeth onto their platform. Unlike that previous film, this one is as bland as they come.
Lacking in both blood and narrative bite, it does nothing new to stand out from the many other vampire films that have swooped onto our screens over the last few years.
The film begins well enough. Set in the Boyle Heights neighbourhood of LA, a location largely populated by Chicano and Mexican-American citizens, we are introduced to Jay (Raúl Castillo), whose girlfriend is suddenly snatched from her car by an unseen force. With a title like Night Teeth, there are no surprises as to what has taken her, but the biggest mystery we are left with is this: What are vampires doing in this part of LA?
After this intriguing setup, we are then introduced to Jay’s younger half brother Benny. Played by Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (recently seen in Amazon’s mind-bending Bliss), Benny is a more likeable character than his intense sibling. He agrees to take over Jay’s job as a driver for hire one night, unaware of the horrors that await him as he begins his shift. As an audience member, you will be less than surprised of course.
Benny picks up Blaire (Debby Ryan) and Zoe (Lucy Fry), two attractive young women who have a set of locations that they want Benny to take them, all before the crack of dawn. It’s obvious from this premise that these two are vampires (even if they don’t flash their fangs), so it’s clear that all isn’t going to go well for Benny.
As the story bounces around the various venues that are on the women’s itinerary, including nightclubs and mansions, we start to understand the reason for this nighttime travail around LA. It’s feeding time for the two vamps, and disturbingly, not every victim is unwilling as some people are happy to offer themselves up as dinner. Benny catches the bloodsuckers in the act at one point and unsurprisingly, tries to make his getaway. Of course, it isn’t long before he is sucked back into the clutches of his travelling companions.
At this point in the story, I was still invested. Benny is forced to drive these vampires around, with the unspoken threat of his demise if he decides to do otherwise. It reminded me of Collateral in a way, only with vampires in place of Tom Cruises’ hitman calling all the shots. But unlike that aforementioned movie, which was tightly constructed to hold one’s attention, Night Teeth starts to go off the rails as the plotting becomes more convoluted.
We learn of a truce between various vampire sects around LA, with one of them headed up by Game Of Thrones’ Alfie Allen and his band of sharp-toothed seductresses, including a briefly seen Megan Fox. Needless to say, various plot threads mean the truce is broken (I won’t go into spoiler territory here), and all hell lets loose as vampire turns against vampire. Benny eventually takes sides and battles to save not only himself but also the fanged immortals he has decided to align with.
The story turns would have been far more interesting if they were taking place in a better movie. The problem with Night Teeth is that it does little to explore the mythology of the vampires in the film and the action – what there is of it – isn’t as pulse-pounding as one would expect.
It’s also hard to care much about Benny as you know little about him, other than the fact that he’s a cash-strapped college student caught between the middle of rival vampire factions. Jay turns up in the story again, but plot twists involving his character are handled in a way that will make you shrug rather than gasp with surprise.
With a lack of proper character development and a shortage of gore, it’s hard to know who this movie is aimed at. There isn’t a lot to scare here so die-hard horror fans won’t get much from it. And despite the lack of blood-letting, it isn’t one for family Halloween viewing either, although teens looking for a movie that hones close to Twilight might appreciate the romantic subplots in the story.
So, is it worth a watch? Well, at this point, you’re probably thinking not. However, it’s not all bad. It’s reasonably well-filmed, there are some attempts at humour, and the LA locations look good.
If you’re willing to lower your expectations, you might get something from this anemic piece of horror. But if you’re looking for something that is both vampire-themed and scary to watch, consider the recent Netflix horror series Midnight Mass or re-watch the 1979 adaptation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, as, unlike Night Teeth, these are both (for this reviewer) horror offerings that are worth sinking your teeth into!
Verdict - 6/10