Night Teeth (MA15+, 107 minutes)
An economics student takes on more than he anticipated when he steps into his brother's shift chauffeuring VIPs around Los Angeles in the new Netflix thriller Night Teeth.
It's a strange title, the "teeth" being due to the fact the the two VIPs being chauffeured around are vampires on an evening of gangland-style territorial expansion.
This is a darkly comic and enjoyable Ulyssean journey through the LA nightscape and playing with genre vampire film tropes, supported by fun performances.
University student by day andelectronica composer by night Benny (Jorge Lendeborg Jr) dreams of changing his life and making enough money for him and his Abuela (Marlene Forte) to live comfortably.
The chance to earn a buck and drive a sweet new ride comes along when his brother Jay (Raul Castillo) is called away on community business and reluctantly allows Benny to fill a lucrative all-night driving job for him.
Arriving at a palatial home in the Hollywood Hills, Benny meets his customers, a pair of deliciously-dressed young women hyped-up for what appears to be an exhaustive night of club-hopping. Zoe (Lucy Fry) hands Benny a list of venues and issues instructions that they must visit them all in order across the night and be home by dawn.
Zoe is rude and dismissive, but her companion Blaire (Debby Ryan) takes an immediate shine to Benny's goofball charm, and he immediately crushes on his glamorous client.
Back in his neighbourhood, brother Jay is conducting what looks like a gangland meeting of his own. It turns out, though, that Jay and his Latin crew have been the brokers of a generations-long detente with the vampire underworld, responsible for helping to keep Los Angeles's human population safe, until this very night, when it appears the vampires have broken the truce.
It also appears that Benny's chauffeuring job is part of the bigger plot of Victor (Alfie Allen), the vampire lover of Zoe and wannabe new head of the vampire underworld. While the girls are slaying their way through the various vampire crime families, Victor has plans to make Benny and Jay martyrs.
Zombies have had a good run in popular culture lately, but I've always preferred bloodsuckers. The filmmakers here, with Alan Randall directing first-time writer Brent Dillon's screenplay, set up a great concept. It is about the soulless denizens of the LA party scene. It could have been Romy & Michelle Meets Twilight, but unfortunately, the screenplay is a little too limited to connect with its audience and its comic potential and it'll upset the metaphysics fans too.
The dynamic that does propel the film is the growing tension and affection between vampire Blaire and her chauffeur, and it wouldn't work if he couldn't snatch glimpses of her in his rear-view mirror, which he does throughout the film. And so immediately the filmmakers ignore one of the go-to vampire film tropes, of vampires not casting a reflection.
This idea goes back millennia to the superstition that a mirror reflects the soul and not the physical body. That's the reason you're supposed to enjoy seven years' back luck if you break one - the amount of time early people felt it took for your soul to heal - and it's the reason soulless vampires cannot be seen in them.
The film's performances are patchy. Former Disney Channel star Ryan's character Blaire gives the actor a meaty adult character to, I apologise here, sink her teeth into. She does an assured job, but her partner in crime, as played by Fry, is a little all over the place in terms of motivation and levels, which might be the writing. In Fry's favour, though, is her brilliantly over-gelled Adventures in Babysitting '80s hair.
The set design is one of the stars of this film, a few truly inspired set pieces are a delight to look at, and a series of fun cameos flesh out the cast, particularly Megan Fox and Sydney Sweeney as the vampire overlords.
If you really want to see soulless evil chillingly portrayed, look for Sweeney's spoiled, precocious teenage brat in The White Lotus on Binge. She's terrifying.
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