There’s a frustrating dissonance to the pre-Halloween Netflix horror Night Teeth, slick packaging belying rotten innards. While the director, Adam Randall, finds inventive ways to break out of the drab Netflix visual template we’ve all grown weary of, any flair he shows is dampened by a script that struggles to add anything to an undead subgenre that’s already been done to death. It’s all bark, no bite.
In first-time writer Brent Dillon’s graphic novel-adjacent universe, there is the age-old trope of the age-old truce between vampires and humans, rules that are agreed upon to maintain a certain equilibrium. In the Boyle Heights neighbourhood of Los Angeles, vampires aren’t allowed in without permission but as the film opens, a rebel mission is launched by Victor (Alfie Allen), tired of kowtowing to the human cattle. He starts a war against Jay (Raul Castillo), a mortal who upholds the law and hunts those who step out of line. Jay’s younger half-brother Benny (Love Simon’s Jorge Lendeborg Jr) finds himself caught in the middle when he takes over Jay’s chauffeur shift and is forced by two vampiric passengers (Lucy Fry and Debby Ryan), working with Victor, to drive them through the city as they destroy various vampire heads before the sun comes up.
Randall’s previous film, 2019’s under-seen Helen Hunt thriller I See You, was less a cohesive story and more a collection of WTF rug-pull reveals but it was confidently anarchic and genuinely surprising. There’s no room for shock here, even for those not steeped in, and bored by, vampire movie lore. Dillon’s uninspired world-building is a fraction away from worlds we’ve seen built time and time again like it’s been assembled by a machine rather than a person, no new lick of paint added to a decaying framework. The Collateral-esque structure, of a driver figuring out he’s an accomplice to a string of murders, requires writing that finds a way to justify why said driver wouldn’t run a mile at the first opportunity, but there are too many lapses here and Dillon crams in an unconvincing will-they-won’t-they YA flirtation between Lenderborg and Ryan that feels more box-ticking than organic.
While it might not possess the flat Netflix aesthetic, there’s still that familiar algorithmic whiff, looking like this and feeling like that and starring that person from that thing, with a clumsily coerced combination of romance, comedy, action and humour to appeal to every demo. Lenderborg is charming enough but Ryan and Fry aren’t quite the seductive scene-stealers that Randall seems to think they are, feeling more like True Blood extras than leads, something that’s highlighted when the White Lotus breakout Sydney Sweeney and Megan Fox slink on to the screen to lift the entire film out from underneath them. The pair play a similar duo, albeit with more power in the vampire world, who, criminally, get only one scene, just enough time to see Fox switching back into her Jennifer’s Body mode for a brief, delicious tease of what could have been.
It’s a shame that there’s so little to chew on in the throwaway script, as Randall really does make the most of his night-time LA setting, taking us from one flashily lit location to the next, evoking that giddy nocturnal thrill of driving through the city after dark, as half is asleep and the other half is partying. But his slick aesthetic is wasted here, his film belonging back in the vampire boom of the 2000s thanks to Dillon’s reheated story. Night Teeth isn’t quite as dreadful as its truly dreadful title but it’s just as forgettable.