[Review] Netflix’s ‘Night Teeth’ Is High on Style But Anemic on Energy

Horror

The latest in Netflix’s crowded month of Halloween offerings, Night Teeth brings a stylized vampire tale that favors thrills over chills. An unwitting protagonist finds himself a fish out of water when dragged into the ultra-cool glitz and glamor of Los Angeles’s nightlife and thrust into the middle of a vampiric coup d’etat. But it keeps its most exciting elements relegated to the background, or worse, in favor of an anemic romance and familiar carpe diem narrative.

Benny (Jorge Lendeborg, Jr.) lives with his Abuela and doesn’t have much social life. When his brother Jay (Raúl Castillo) makes a surprise appearance at home, Benny talks him into letting him take over for the night at Jay’s chauffeur gig for a quick means of earning cash. His duties for the evening means picking up and escorting two mysterious women, Blaire (Debby Ryan) and Zoe (Lucy Fry), around the town for the night, checking off a list of parties across Los Angeles. But Benny soon finds himself in over his head when he discovers that Blaire and Zoe are bloodsucking vixens on a mission that involves ending vampire peace. Surviving until dawn might prove tricky.

An opening sequence that features Jay and villainous vamp Victor (Alfie Allen) sets up the overarching plot and emotional stakes before introducing Night Teeth’s protagonist. But these stakes never really amount to anything and sets the precedence for the film’s anemic world-building. Jay and Victor are critical players in the underground supernatural war, but Night Teeth prefers to tell over show. The opposing characters occasionally pop up here and there to give brief glimpses of a larger war happening. Still, the focus remains on Benny discovering this world through his bloodthirsty passengers.

As charming as Lendenborg Jr. is as Benny, the downside is that screenwriter Brent Dillon and director Adam Randall only tease at a much more interesting world than the one presented. A peripheral scene featuring Alfie confronting vampire royalty (Megan Fox and Sydney Sweeney) cuts away before the action, eager to jump right back to Benny’s dilemma of learning to embrace life while attempting to rein in powerful murderesses.

It doesn’t help that Benny’s moral conundrum feels familiar. His slow realization of vampires, their powers, and control of the city through an affluent hierarchy is reminiscent of similar stories that see normies uncover an underground world of the supernatural. Even Benny’s attraction to Blaire feels telecast in a way that’s inorganic and sleepy, despite playing a pivotal role in the film’s events. Every single vampire, save for a brief wildcard appearance by Alexander Ludwig, plays their characters with the same one-note aloofness that makes them indistinguishable on a character level.

What Night Teeth lacks in substance it makes up for in style. The setup means Benny whisks his clients from set piece to set piece, showcasing Los Angeles excess and neon-lit nightlife. He zips Blaire and Zoe along from high-end party to high-end party, and they often result in bloodshed, gunfights, and death. Randall keeps Benny’s journey visually interesting, at least.

Despite a likable lead and a constantly moving narrative, Night Teeth lacks bite. Not even an exquisite production design can distract from the underbaked world-building and a predictable story. Many of its supporting players are underutilized, and worse, many sleepwalk through their parts when not forgotten. That sums up the entire viewing experience; aesthetically pleasing but sucked dry of any life.

Night Teeth releases on Netflix on October 20, 2021.

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