Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Lochlyn Munro, Chandra West, Nicole Munoz, P.J. Soles
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes
There is something irresistible about taking our most cherished childhood fantasies and turning them into corrupt, adult nightmares. Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Pee-Wee Herman—they're all ripe for horrific makeovers. Veteran TV director Chuck Bowman embarks on his first foray into the horror genre with "The Tooth Fairy," a bloody reinvention of that magical pixie we all used to wait for at night after losing a baby tooth. This time around, she has traded in her pocket change for a hatchet and awaits the perfect moment to slaughter the little tykes. Ah, memories.
In the bonus features presented on Anchor Bay Entertainment's DVD release, Bowman mentions that he watched several horror movies in preparation for this one. Apparently "Darkness Falls" (2003) wasn't one of them, or he would have known that this story has already been told. The film opens in 1949, with two young brothers approaching a decrepit old house that is owned by a reclusive old lady who is rumored to be a witch. The lady has promised one of the boys a prize in exchange for his last baby tooth. Once inside, the boy is viciously attacked by the old woman and hacked to death with an axe.
Fast forward to the present day. Peter Campbell (Lochlyn Munro) has refurbished the now-abandoned house and turned it into a bed and breakfast. His girlfriend, Darcy (Chandra West), and her preteen daughter, Pamela (Nicole Munoz), drive out to the country to spend the weekend at the new inn, hoping for a peaceful vacation. Well, that doesn't happen. Upon arriving in the country, Darcy is nearly raped by a couple of backwoods brothers who seem to share half a brain. Pamela makes friends with a ghostly girl who warns her of the witch who preys after children with loose teeth, and it doesn't take long for someone to end up dead, sent through a woodchopper no less. In spite of all of this, the characters remain curiously unaffected and show absolutely no interest in getting out of there.
Like just about every other direct-to-DVD splatter film released from Anchor Bay, this represents the bottom of the barrel for creativity. Aside from the recycled "Darkness Falls" story, all of the characters and situations are hopelessly clichéd and predictable. The screenplay is hilariously awful, with such howl-inducing lines as, "Life isn't a Harry Potter novel," and "What kind of whack job takes a Hyundai?" The performances, while not horrendous, are one-note and bland. Perhaps if the actors had taken a tongue-in-cheek approach to the material, it would have been a little more tolerable. Even cult film regular P.J. Soles is wasted in a thankless cameo as a loony neighbor.
On the upside, the film does have a slight camp element that, I'm sure, is unintentional. The gore factor is appropriately strong, with some pretty gruesome kills. I have to admit that the opening scene described above is actually quite effective, if cheaply done. The tooth fairy shows a remarkable versatility in her slayings, proving on more than one occasion that she is very handy with a power tool. For a better illustration of how low this film will go, the absolute best scene involves those backwoods brothers relieving themselves by the side of the road. The witch, who by this point has broadened her game to include adults as well, generously performs a free penectomy on one of them while his drawers are down. Upon realizing what has happened, his brother delivers a quip that, while too obscene to repeat here, is simply priceless.
Anchor Bay's DVD release is surprisingly good and probably much better than the film deserves. Presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer, the image looks relatively clean, with only negligible specks. At times the picture is a tad soft, but this may be deliberate. Skin tones look natural, and the print exhibits fine black levels. Day scenes are especially bold and vibrant. I must say this is an above-average showing for such a schlocky piece of material.
The audio comes to us in Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 surround. Sadly, it is not as impressive as the video quality, revealing a slight harshness during dialogue scenes. Action scenes suffer the worst, with sound effects and music all jumbled together and overpowering the voices. The surround channels are pretty much neglected as the mishmash of noise seems to spread all over with little clarity and no evident distribution.
Director Chuck Bowman joins producer Stephen J. Cannell and actor Jesse Hutch (the lucky victim who is ground up in the woodchopper) for an audio commentary track. The three seem to be having a good time watching the movie, obviously a much better time than I had. They crack a few jokes, but they clearly take the movie a lot more seriously than I did. If ever a movie deserved the Mike Nelson Mystery Science Theater treatment, this is it.
The 10-minute featurette, "Hatchet Job: The Making of The Tooth Fairy," boasts interviews with all of the major cast members, the director and producer. It is hardly long enough to offer anything substantial, but it is a swift and entertaining extra.
"Tales of the Tooth Fairy" is a roughly 2-minute bit that offers the cast's recollections of their own tooth fairy experiences as children. This is a fun, if somewhat pointless, feature that helps lighten the mood a little.
The back of the package lists a trailer, though there is none to be found. We do get some trailers for other Anchor Bay releases, but not one for this.
All in all, "The Tooth Fairy" is a pretty lame-brained diversion. It is not the worst that I've seen, but if you're out for a rental, you could do far better. For its campy elements, this is not bad for late night TV. There is just quite frankly not enough here to recommend the movie to anybody, unless you absolutely must hear P.J. Soles speak with an Irish accent. For good, scary fun, stick with the pros. These filmmakers tried for a shocker, but it would appear the real tooth fairy paid a visit to the set and made off with whatever bite it had.