“We’re all around you,” begins the opening narration of Night Teeth, Netflix’s shiny new candy-colored vampire odyssey, “living right under your noses. And you have no idea.” Cool! If there’s one sure way to slap a fresh coat of paint on a tired premise, it’s to insert a clandestine underworld order. Literally — it’s what the Underworld movies did, with their vampire/werewolf war! So from the jump, I was willing to strap in and see what Night Teeth’s take on vampires-walk-amongst-us was going to offer … until it shot itself in the foot about a minute later. The glossy animated intro proceeds to lay out its brief history of vampire-human relations, blah blah we used to fight but now there’s a truce blah blah, and then it presents the three rules that vampires have agreed to follow in order to keep the peace. One: “Don’t let humans know we exist.” Two: “Don’t feed on the unwilling.” And three… WAIT A MINUTE. Don’t the first two rules contradict each other? For a human to be WILLING to offer blood, don’t they have to KNOW that vampires exist? That doesn’t make any sense!
Yeah, so that’s basically the experience of watching Night Teeth in a nutshell. The world-building is so shoddy, the mythology so gnarled yet threadbare, you can’t help but trip over every single plot hole even when you’re trying to kick back and enjoy the ride. The third rule, in case you’re wondering, is something about vampires agreeing not to enter the Boyle Heights neighborhood in Los Angeles without permission. That rule is the one that actually matters, because the film opens with Alfie Allen breaking it or something? It’s literally the inciting incident of the whole movie, and it doesn’t make sense until later when you find out that he’s a vampire. So Alfie Allen plays Victor, typecast here as a Theon-ish conniving middle-management bloodsucker, and he went to Boyle Heights to piss off Jay (Raúl Castillo), the human point-person who keeps the vampires from stepping out of line. But that’s just his opening salvo. Victor’s real plan is to overthrow the 5 vamp bosses that run LA’s underworld and take over, and his coup unfolds the following night.
Jay, by the way, is a chauffeur, and when he realizes that Something Big Is Going Down, he takes the night off from work and lets his little brother Benny drive in his stead because that’s how jobs work. Benny, played by Jorge Lendeborg Jr., is the actual main character of the movie — the innocent who gets in over his head. He’s an awkward college student who aspires to be a music producer and has absolutely no idea why his big brother has a collection of old fancy knives but ANYWAY. Turns out Jay had been hired to drive two rich young women around from dusk till dawn for a glamorous night of party-hopping, only — yup, you guessed it — they’re actually vampires. Zoe (Lucy Fry) is Victor’s girlfriend and Blaire (Debby Ryan) is her BFF, and together they’re really going around murdering the secret underground vampire bosses. They think Benny is Jay, because that’s what he told them, and are rather put out when they realize they aren’t actually holding the Very Important Human Dude hostage.
Is any of this making any sense? Because it shouldn’t! I haven’t even gotten to the fact that there’s a separate group of humans called the Night Legion, hunters who’ve busted out their crossbows now that a vampire has broken the truce, so that makes two (2) different groups of people tracking three (3) individual rogue vampires while the whole of the vampire society sits around on their hands and does nothing. At one point Jay arrives at a mansion we recognize, because it was the first stop on Zoe and Blaire’s kill-blitz where they infiltrated a party and killed everyone inside. Only apparently they didn’t, because the vampire boss — the ONE VAMPIRE they actually needed to kill there — is still alive, just sitting on his deck looking out over the massacred bodies of his underlings and waiting to explain the whole scenario to Jay. The boss didn’t, like, call any of the other vampire mafia heads to warn them of Victor’s treachery, and he didn’t even try to save himself or retaliate. He just sat there. And then Jay killed him. Oh, and the vampire underworld is just, like, members-only hotels and nightclubs and stuff, so it’s exactly the same as normal rich person sh*t. Victor is staging a coup to control nothing interesting at all, because he’s mad that nobody respects him.
This is one of those movies where I contemplated turning it off the entire time, and I didn’t because I respect my film editor, but also because there was just enough good stuff to keep me on the hook. By the time Megan Fox showed up for a one-scene cameo to deliver the film’s greatest bit of dialogue, I knew anything could happen if I just stuck with it. Director Adam Randall realizes the visual potential of a neon-soaked playground filled with LA’s prettiest people and lets most of the bloody action happen off-screen or in the background while the camera swoops and lingers on the trio of Benny, Blaire and Zoe. Those three characters, and actors, do all of the heavy lifting making the lazy script from Brent Dillon work (the money the film saved on action scenes it also saved on script edits, apparently, and that probably covered Megan Fox’s day fee). Ultimately Night Teeth can’t sustain its own mythology, filled with barely sketched factions at war over a bullsh*t broken truce, but as a movie about one long crazy night where a hot 70-year-old vampire lady inexplicably falls for a hot, awkward college dude who lives with his grandmother and wants to be a DJ, and then turns on her hot friend in order to save him? Somehow THAT almost does make sense, here.
Night Teeth was released on Netflix October 20, 2021.
Header Image Source: Netflix