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“Night Teeth” is Unapologetically Derivative, but Surprisingly Fun [Review]

Imagine someone walking into a pitch meeting after just watching “Collateral” with Tom Cruise and telling them that what movie really needs is vampires. Like, what if we just make the same movie but trade out Cruise for two hot, young vampire girls? And someone heard this and gave it the green light. That’s basically “Night Teeth” in a nutshell. A glossy, Los Angeles heavy vampire romp that wholly embraces its ridiculousness and borrowed premise.

There’s something to be said about so brazenly taking a premise from another movie and inserting a small spin on it. There’s a part of you that wants to hold the film accountable for its clear rip off of other films, but that all kind of disappears when you realize that “Night Teeth” isn’t trying to be anything other than what it is. “Night Teeth” may be familiar and a collection of something borrowed, but it embraces its simplicity and makes for a fun little night with vamps.

Directed by relative newcomer Adam Randall and written by first time writer Brent Dillon, “Night Teeth” is literally Michael Mann’sCollateral” with vampires. It follows Benny (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) who, through a case of mistaken identity and vampire power grab ends up being a driver for two young, beautiful girls with a night of stops. Those two girls are actually vicious vampires on the hunt to wipe out the vampire bosses of Los Angeles to takeover the city by dawn. Benny’s world is turned upside down at the discovery that his passengers are vampires, and is thrust into even more danger when he discovers that his older brother Jay (Raul Castillo) is the THE protector of Boyle Heights and has a longstanding beef with the power grab leader himself in Victor (Alfie Allen).

Writer Brent Dillon may be new to Hollywood and feature film writing in general, which probably explains why “Night Teeth” feels so much like other, better films. The saving grace is its self awareness, never apologizing for its borrowed elements and willing to draw attention to all of them. The film ends up feeling more like a love letter to these clearly Dillion favorites instead of blatant rip off. This makes a lot of these familiar plot points and characters still a lot of fun to watch even if you’ve seen them in plenty of other films. Director Adam Randall his a good eye for bringing the city of Los Angeles to life (again, a lot like “Collateral“) and makes the city the film is based in as much as a character in the story as a setting. Randall also adds a highly stylized gloss to “Night Teeth,” with much of Ebon Bolter’s cinematography featuring bright neon lights juxtaposed against dark alleys and dimly lit streets. For being a lot like other things, “Night Teeth” looks pretty good throughout.

What really elevates the film from “just another vampire flick” too “another vampire flick, but still a lot of fun” is the films 3 leads, with Jorge Lendeborg once again showing off his affable but charming presence that he has embodied in just about everything else he’s been in. He’s no different here than he is in say “Bumblebee” or “Alita: Battle Angel” (though he’s not so much the sidekick in the latter) or even his brief appearances in the “Spiderman” franchise. But even being the same as he is in everything else, Lendeborg’s performance works here. He’s the perfect fish out of water, socially awkward but charming enough to get the girl in the end kind of character, and “Night Teeth” lets him shine. His vampire passengers Debby Ryan and Lucy Fry as Blaire and Zoe are delightfully devious, and are clearly having a blast relishing in their vampire antics and playful banter.

Yes, Megan Fox is also in “Night Teeth,” but it’s literally 30 seconds, blink and you miss her kind of cameo. Alfie Allen as Victor is about as much as you’d expect from Allen, with the same punchable face to match his villainous antics seen in just about everything else he’s ever done. Yes, that includes “Game of Thrones.” I said what I said. Everyone is in on the joke of “Night Teeth,” and Randall let’s his cast do as the please and have as much as fun as they want. The trio is really fun to watch and really easy to root for, even as their relationship gets more and more complicated and they’re technically on opposite sides with opposing goals. You simultaneously want Benny to be the hero but also kind of want Blaire and Zoe to succeed in their murderous night of selected marks. Sure, “Night Teeth” is simple and familiar, but the characters are also really simple to invest in and care about, making the film more enjoyable from start to finish than it ever should be and expected.

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Night Teeth” isn’t without its flaws, and you’d be forgiven for not being about to get past its derivative nature, and it’s not exactly hi brow cinema. The film isn’t breaking the mold in any genre, including vampires, horror, and horror/comedy. Like so many things these days, “Night Teeth” would actually be way better as series, as the more unique parts of the film like vampire mob bosses, territories, shaky truces, and power grabs would serve better to be explored over episodes rather given as expository narration over the opening prologue. “Night Teeth” is also incredibly predictable, with just about every major plot point seen miles away before they happen. And yes, as charming as Lendeborg is, he plays it a little too cool and a little too dumb, taking way too long to realize he’s driving around vampires and not really portraying any kind of existential crisis upon this discover. There’s a bit of tonal imbalance with Benny, which for myself is excusable but may be off putting to others.

Night Teeth” may not be reinventing the wheel and isn’t even close to the best Netflix has to offer. But it is a lot of fun, more fun than you’d expect from something that consistently feels so familiar. If you’re looking for a good vampire time this spooky season, I’d recommend sinking your teeth into “Night Teeth.”

Or watch “Collateral” again since you probably don’t remember how damn good that movie is.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

80%
Familiar but Fun
  • Entertaining
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