This is a laughably bad post-apocalyptic thriller that was inexplicably included as one of the “8 Films to Die For” in the 2007 edition of the After Dark Horrorfest. Apart from the overall low-quality of the threadbare production, one has to wonder why After Dark Films would stretch the definition of “horror” to include a second-rate entry like this (presumably because of the gory violence?)
To be fair, TOOTH AND NAIL quite honestly announces its awfulness in the opening narration, which rather absurdly tries to blame the complete collapse of civilization on running out of gasoline! It is easy enough to believe that such an event would radically alter society, but here we are supposed to believe that it led to a total collapse, followed by anarchy and savagery. Guess all those wind-powered generators, electrical dams, and nuclear reactors were good for nothing! And nobody thought to press bicycles, sailing yachts, and horses into transportation service. And all those historical societies and naturalists and campers and boy scouts who learned how to rub two sticks together – they didn’t help out much either! The absurdity of the whole notion is underlined by the intonations of Robert Carradine, who delivers the lines as if telling a bad joke – which indeed it is.
Once the story begins, we soon see that we are in a throwback to bad drive-in filming from the ’70s and ’80s, which often consisted of finding a large, abandoned building (in this case, a hospital) and setting a whole movie inside it. Our cast of characters are trying to build a new life, but after they rescue a stranger (Rachel Miner) they find themselves menaced by “Rovers,” a band of cannibals who pick off their victims by night, one at a time.
The lip-service explanation for this modus operandi is that Rovers like fresh meat, so they do not kill all their victims at once and let them rot. Of course, it would be just as easy to capture everyone and hold them prisoner until dinner time, but then there would be no excuse to drag the film out with scene after scene of characters being killed off one by one.
But plot is only one of the problems here. The real laugh riot is the dialogue and performances, which plumb the giddy depths of silliness as our hapless, helpless band of misfits stand around wondering what to do and asking each other if it will be all right and worrying about their inability to handle the situation. When voting for a new leader (after the death of the previous one), the pettiness and bickering has all the dramatic impact of high school kids picking the president of the prom committee.
Later, lest we forget that this is just a schlock exploitation film, there are a couple of gratuitous sex scenes, one of which is outright goofy (with night falling and the Rovers on their way, the guy promises the girl that he will protect her – oh, that survival talk is so sexy!) Otherwise, the subject of sex never comes up. The Rovers seem to enjoy eating men and women equally; although their leader talks about survival of the fittest, the fact that their tribe will not survive without women to bear children never comes up.
By the time our heroine decides to put the hammer down on these cannibalistic cretins and dons her warpaint, the film comes close to achieving camp classic status; sadly, the lethargic pace prevents TOOTH AND NAIL from being truly enjoyable bad, so the film will have to settle for the distinction of being the best reason in recent memory for the return of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 (it would make a good companion piece for ROBOT HOLOCAUST).
It is a shock to see Carradine in middle age (where has he been since REVENGE OF THE NERDS?), but he gives a respectable performance, lending the film a little class for a short time. Michael Madsen shows up in two brief scenes as one of the Rovers, but he never interacts with the rest of the cannibals and none of them seem to notice when he’s gone, leading one to suspect that his footage was shot and added seperately, to provide a little name value. Rachel Miner (who was so good in PENNY DREADFUL, one of After Dark’s offerings last year) is ultimately defeated by the script, which turns her character into a melodramatic cliche.
There is one good idea in the movie: for the final confrontation, the odds for our outnumbered heroine are evened because the cannibals are doped up – the bodies of their latest victims having been injected with drugs. It’s the one moment when you actually think, “That’s clever,” and it thankfully spares us from an extended knock-down, drag-out, tooth-and-nail fight scene. It ain’t much, but when sitting through something this bad, you grow grateful for the few meagre crumbs of quality.
TOOTH AND NAIL (2007). Written and directed by Mark Young. Cast: Rachel Miner, Robert Carradine, Michael Madsen, Vinnie Jones, Rider Strong, Michael Kelly, Nicol DuPort, Alexandra Barreto, Emily Catherine Young. Beverly Hynds, Patrick Durham, Jonathan Sachar.