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Jan 11

NARNIA WEEK: What’s So Scary About Extra Teeth?

Do You See14 comments • 1,506 views

As the resident Freakytrigger fearologist, I can no longer hold my fire on the most insidious trend of monster movies of the last twenty years. It is OK when a few late night shockers tumble down this line, but when even a Narnia film tiptoes into this area of excess, I have to make myself heard. In Voyage Of The Dawn Treader, in the big final battle, the crew come up against a sea serpent. A pretty well realised sea serpent, peril levels were actively high for this bit. Big, slobbery and bitey, I was rather impressed with how this effect came out. And then the serpent had to go and open up ITS ENTIRE BODY to reveal some sort of chitinous extra sets of mouths, legs and a whole mess of needless rubbish. I must speak up. And when I speak I open my mouth and what’s inside BUT ANOTHER EVEN SCARIER MOUTH.

We all know who to blame.

Teeth are scary. Biting is scary. But I never understood why having a second little mouth inside you more than adequately toothy mouth made the Alien more fearsome. Is the little mouth a tongue with teeth, can it eat with the big mouth? All questions which are happily ignored when discussing the Xenomorph, as nothing about its reproductive or biological make up makes any sense. The extra mouth comes low down on the list of oddities with this creation.

Or indeed this one:

The Predator seems to have a little mouth in his big mouth and then a few extra teeth on the outside just for a laugh. Not as funny as his piggy eyes though. I remember the reveal in the original film for this everyone being a bit underwhelmed. Is this horrifically ugly or just badly designed?

When you think about it Star Wars has that pit full of teeth which never seem to be able to chew, The Thing seems to evolve teeth out of nowhere and I have no idea what was going on inside the Graboids mouths in Tremors, it just didn’t seem evolutionarily plausible. The giant worms steeling people from the surface was scary enough, I don’t need additional pink mile long tongues with teeth in too.

Obvious revealing something hidden can provide a nice shock, all for the good in a horror movie you would think. But when something is already scary, adding stuff on to make it more scary often undermines the effect. The Alien fulfils out fears by being fast, strong and deadly. The moment that second mouth pops out I wondered why is this ultimate killing machine bothering with this silly little mouth? Same in the Dawn Treader: the serpent is a very effective antagonist, because it is bigger then the boat and will eat people. As soon as its banana like body unfolds to reveal pointless bits (and what appears to be a soft underbelly) you ask yourself “how would that have evolved?”* Sure slipping some surprising teeth inside an attractive insecure girl can be scary (as seen in Teeth). Adding an additional layer of teeth to a MONSTER, doesn’t make it more monstrous. It makes it oddly less.

This is the only picture of the serpent I could find, and its after the “reveal”:

*OK, I know its Narnia, and magical and this is a figment partially of Edmund imagination. BUT EDMUND HAD NOT SEEN THIS MOVIE TROPE YET.

Comments

  1. 1
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 6 Jan 2011 #

    Important questions:

    a: Does Narnia feature evolution? Ans = NO
    b: What does Alien’s toothbrush look like? Each bristle is its own little brush!
    c: How does Predator keep food in his mouth? HE WOULD SO NEED A PELICAN BIB!

  2. 2
    Tom on 6 Jan 2011 #

    When reading abt Scylla and Charybdis to Lytton I was amazed to learn that Scylla had 6 heads and THREE SETS OF TEETH PER HEAD so this trope goes back further than just Alien. Sharks have bonus teeth too don’t they?

    This is not the end of Scylla’s anatomical unlikeliness. It also has a rear end made up of twelve dogs which are always barking. By this point we’re into Father Dougal and the Beast of Craggy Island territory though.

  3. 3
    swanstep on 7 Jan 2011 #

    The extra teeth in the Alien case are horrifying because we suspect, but never really know how they work (so they’re part of the mystery of what the monster really looks like that plays out through the first film). We finally see the inner tongue/mouth punch through Parker’s (the black guy’s) skull in the most gruesome shot in the whole film, but it happens so fast, just a couple of frames, that in real time it’s hard to even register what you’ve just seen. I seem to remember that Species sort of used the same trick – we infer that the hot chick/monster has something like alien’s mouth-tongue-thing so that she can instantly transform from a kiss to skull-smashing. I don’t know whether the Narnia dragon’s inner mouth-stuff can work quite so well since it’s not person-sized so isn’t in the same sort of up-close-and-personal penetration/violation line of work as these other horrors are.

  4. 4
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 7 Jan 2011 #

    I vaguely recall that Alien’s mouthparts are based on actual-real insect or insect larva mandibles — for some reason i thought “caddis fly”, tho it doesn’t seem to fit really, based on google-image… So there’s the “wrong sense of scale” spookiness at work

    Medusa’s hair has mouths with teeth! ftb it is snakes obv

    I do think “it’s Edmund’s nightmare” is a perfectly fair get-out: I’m not scared of spiders especially, small or large, but I am a bit phobic of insect legs coming off… so if I were trapped on the Dark Island, my nightmare wd build to a torrent of BITS of insects* — which are logically a lot less menacing than whole insects, but phobias are illogical

    *and indeed i have had this nightmare

  5. 5
    Pete on 7 Jan 2011 #

    No its a fair get out, though surely Edmund’s actual nightmare is the old White Witch again (shoehorned in as the Green Misty Witch, which I am sure will keep Tilda in rice for a while). Or perhaps a global shortage of Turkish Delight.

  6. 6
    CarsmileSteve on 7 Jan 2011 #

    sharks have four rows of teeth but, importantly, all on the same bit of gum.

  7. 7
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 7 Jan 2011 #

    The Thing: has scary extraneous mouths all over the place — plus heads splitting to reveal other heads inside and so on — but actually doesn’t need an organ of ingestion at all; or rather, is nothing BUT organ of ingestion, since it turns YOU into a Thing just by touching you, or slobbering on you, or something

    Quite where it derives its energy from: NOT SO CLEAR!

  8. 8
    Pete on 7 Jan 2011 #

    Yes the motivation of the The Thing to bother scaring anyone is beyond me, unless its doing that for laffs.

    Clearly fear of being taken over is a whole different thing all together. Again evolutionarily unlikely critter. At least its clear why the Predators are so into Pre-Dating, if you looked like that you’d try and get as much work in sight unseen as possible.

  9. 9
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 7 Jan 2011 #

    The Thing has to scare people because it is vulnerable while actually absorbing them! Because i: then you know who it’s absorbing and can keep track and ii: that’s the point it must be EXPENDING energy and can’t shapeshift out of danger!

    In the short (haha “short”) story, it’s telepathic with humans but not with its own divided selves! At least, it can put ideas and feelings into people’s minds; maybe it can’t read them.

  10. 10
    thefatgit on 7 Jan 2011 #

    The xenomorph and predator are derivations on Lovecraft’s Cthulhu. In order to visually represent what Lovecraft himself had problems describing, then you have to tap into primal fear and what that may represent, and importantly what could “exist” in the “real world”. Teeth, tentacles, tongues all feature in the fear of penetration end of the primal spectrum. Ooze, slime and other fluids feature in the fear of infection region. Claws, teeth(again), horns are fear of evisceration (similar to penetration, but subtly different as evisceration is mortal wounding, and penetration has a more sexual connotation attached to it).
    Alien famously plays on the fears of male pregnancy. Predator also presses primal buttons, where man was once the prey of the sabretooth tiger and similar superpredators.
    The Thing, able to shapeshift, circumvents the traditional primal triggers by being a metaphor for paranoia and psychosis through enforced claustrophobia. The Shining does this too, but we’re moving away from monster territory.
    Psychologists could have a field day with monster creators, simply because they’re hardwired into the primal switchboard, and knowing instinctively what triggers that moment of terror. The director and the screenwriter have to tackle our ability to suspend disbelief, which is why Alien works and Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus doesn’t. The best monsters, imo, contain a certain amount of that Cthulhu DNA.

  11. 11
    swanstep on 7 Jan 2011 #

    Apparently tumors sometimes develop quite elaborate sets of parallel organelles to their hosts, including teeth. I had the misfortune to catch the big reveal on some (I think) Discovery channel semi-doco of a basketball-sized tumor removed from some poor SOB which indeed had something close to a full set of choppers. Scarred forever by that I was.

  12. 12
    Pete on 8 Jan 2011 #

    Ah yes the Teratoma. Here is my half arsed memory of how that works, its basically what happens when stem cells get cancer. Since stem cells contain the information to grow any part of the body, when it gets cancer it can spontaneously generate any bit, including teeth and hair (or sometime bone and even EYES!!!).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teratoma

    Again these extra teeth are scary but in an ick, gross way.

  13. 13
    myteethwhiteningsolutions on 8 Jan 2011 #

    Tooth discoloration should not be taken lightly though the case should really lighten to brighten up a smile. There are many reasons why teeth get stained.

  14. 14

    I’LL BET THERE ARE

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