'Night Teeth' doesn't paint the proverbial town as red as we'd hope, since the more exciting action elements of this underdeveloped vampire thriller are accented by flatness.
- 🩸 Slick production design
- 🩸 A few actors have fun with their parts
- 🩸 It's acted well enough
- 🩸 Lacks genuine excitement
- 🩸 All for show
- 🩸 Really wastes some characters
Adam Randall’s Night Teeth is deceptively dull underneath its music video flashiness as vampires take on Los Angeles nightlife. Brent Dillon’s screenplay introduces secret hunter societies, warring bloodsucker factions and territorial truces that Netflix so clearly wants to franchise — delicious invite-only landscapes certainly beckon viewers into criminal syndication that runs on crimson gold. The problem exists more in lax character designs, establishing plotlines that devalue certain actors’ inclusions and the whole idea of Night Teeth as a hipster gangland horror fantasy. It’s stylish, flashy window dressing that lustfully sucks veins and bumps dope beats, which isn’t that impactful with often shallow narrative investment.
Benny (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) is an aspiring DJ who lives with his Abuela (Marlene Forte) and is studying to complete his college education but goes off-script to cover his brother Jay’s (Raúl Castillo) chauffer business for the night. Two socialite rich girls enter Benny’s tricked-out SUV — Blaire (Debby Ryan) and Zoe (Lucy Fry) — who provide a list of addresses they need to visit before sunrise. It’s an unquestioned request until Benny snoops around their belongings to find blood-covered stacks of cash. What’s behind Zoe’s reckless flirtations and Blaire’s somewhat taming of her wild-child best friend? Once they flash their fangs, Benny connects the dots — Blaire and Zoe are vampires.
Throughout Benny’s navigation behind the wheel, Blaire and Zoe infiltrate vampy underground hideouts from swanky hotels with feeding chambers to tatted Rocko’s (Alexander Ludwig) beach bum barroom. We learn that Zoe’s boyfriend Victor (Alfie Allen) plans to overthrow current vampiric overlords by eliminating the competition over a single night — Blaire and Zoe are Victor’s assassins. It’s an intriguing concept complete with magical police forces that shoot crossbows at vampires who behave as threats if only Randall’s direction didn’t one-dimensionally serve base visual slickness. Characters who exist as edgy Twilight cover girls and guys waltz into scenarios that are never as powerful as Dillon's screenplay hopes. It’s generally as boring as having Megan Fox and Sydney Sweeney play dress-up before being eaten off-camera so Alfie Allen can feign ruthlessness.
Night Teeth bites into the script’s divide-and-conquer meat but finds a dry, tasteless bounty that leaves us still hungry for something more substantial. Expect the equivalent of indie horror flicks that advertise Danny Trejo by name yet only use him for three dialogue lines he shot after lunch.
That’s not to say Lendeborg Jr. wastes his opportunity to become the human familiar for Ryan’s and Fry’s vampire executioners — the arc between a mortal cozying up to his immortal crush and her crazier partner is the script’s strength. Lendeborg Jr. remains strongest when Benny wakes Abuela, and she bursts out aiming a shotgun at Blaire and Zoe, which transitions into Benny and Blaire’s romantic sparks with Abuela’s permission.
I can take or leave so much of the action and worldbuilding because it’s unimpressively slight — I keep seeing comparisons to Bright, but there’s nothing nearly as enveloping here. Fantasy police departments siege out of nowhere, vampire mafia dons bite the dust out of sight and each destination is defined simply by a glowing skyline sign before Benny sneaks inside.
Are there unmentioned accents about the world of Night Teeth that intrigue me, calling upon Daybreakers or Vampires vs. The Bronx? Yes. Between Jay’s undercover leadership when locals fight back against Victor’s mutiny to more backstory around decades worth of peaceful vampire operations, viewers are thrust into a story that feels like it’s missing an entire act. That still, unfortunately, doesn’t make me any more excited to see if Night Teeth returns with a sequel.
The more sensational moments of Night Teeth feel so sanitized, like when violence erupts or Victor reveals his fresh blood tap’s source. Excitement pans away from Zoe as she rips Rocko’s dudebro thugs open to capture Benny and Blaire’s makeout session or punctuates car chases with digital animation that turns Benny’s vehicle into nonsense video game overheads. Randall favors the renegade attitudes of Zoe and Blaire as they flee from bodyguards and supernatural law enforcement, Zoe hanging out Benny’s passenger side window, daring crossbow bolts trailing fairy dust to strike her dead. It’s a narrative based on moods without displaying the enthusiasm characters desperately attempt to convey, unsupported by an overall costume hangout presentation hidden behind seductive production values.
Night Teeth looks the part but squanders its interconnections of traitors and tyrants. It’s a glossy streaming horror watch that cares more about appearances than the actual depth of its storytelling hooks. A driver for hire zips around the city of angels with undead clients who introduce a world that should be as electric as its lighting choices — not soulless like a drained corpse.
Those looking for something streamable and simplified might enjoy the scenic metropolitan view as they focus harder on weekend chores. Still, anyone craving more interest will bemoan an inexcusable flatness. It’s vampires versus fleshlings, vampires versus vampires, vampires versus paranormal punishers, and most importantly, the audience versus a movie that never wants to be anything more than a Halloween party background selection projected on mute.
Night Teeth premieres on Netflix Oct. 20.
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