Writer-director Mitchell Lichtenstein's strangely toothless feature debut is a black comedy that revolves around a chaste teenager who discovers that her vagina has fangs.
Small-town high school cutie Dawn (Jess Weixler) has committed herself to "The Promise," a program that advocates chastity until marriage -- could her enthusiasm for no-sex vows have anything to do with the repressed childhood memory of a game of "I'll show you mine" with her soon-to-be stepbrother that left him minus a fingertip? – but is mightily tempted by "born again virgin" Tobey (Hale Appleman). Dawn is at an especially vulnerable juncture: She's teased relentlessly by the cool kids and her home life is fraught with tension -- her beloved mother (Vivienne Benesch) is ill, loutish stepbrother Brad (John Hensley, of TV's Nip/Tuck) is always leering at her and entertaining tarty girls in his room, and her sweet-natured stepfather (Lenny von Dohlen) is too overwhelmed to do much more than beam benevolently at his good-as-gold little girl. So Dawn lets down her guard and goes for an unchaperoned swim at a secluded lake with Tobey, even venturing into the damp cave where less principled teens go to make out and worse. Supposedly sensitive Tobey shows his true colors and forces himself on her, and lives – however briefly – to regret it. Dawn's horrified realization that she's a genetic sport, the living embodiment of the myth of the vagina dentate – maybe growing the nuclear power plant directly behind her home had something to do with it – sends her to a smarmy gynecologist (Josh Pais), and things don't go too well there, either. But after her third run in with a creepy man, it dawns on Dawn that maybe her deformity is a secret weapon in disguise.
Kudos to Lichtenstein – the son of painter Roy Lichtenstein -- for the sheer audacity of his premise; it's just a shame that he never seems to have figured out exactly what he wants to do with it: The film's mix of cheap gags, macabre coming-of-age story, social satire and Cronenbergian body horror is apparently meant to gel into black comedy, but it never quite does. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh