Tooth and Nail

(The gist: Tooth and Nail is a believable apocalypse movie about survivors and cannibals. The premise and characters start strong but kind of digress into a weaker ending. I found it realistic, but the film failed to get me invested.)

For me, apocalypse movies are less about the apocalypse and more about the survivors. Sure, I love my gore and horror as much as the next horror lover, but ultimately, I judge my apocalypse movies based on the realism of the devolution of the survivors. Do I believe this is what will become of people after it all ends?

Tooth and Nail passes this test for me. From the first scene, the survival dynamics are realistic. They piss each other off; there are tight tensions and alliances. They fall apart without a leader. Pockets of people hiding out in what’s left, establishing their own little social structures, I can buy. Cannibals who hunt the other survivors, I can buy too. Not all survivors would survive the same, so I like to see a spectrum, especially when those opposing ends collide. So as the movie starts, I was there; I was in it.

The lower budget production makes the movie feel more gritty, which is appropriate for the plot and the setting. It is also what I come to expect from After Dark Horrorfest. However, the voice over narration to orientate the audience to how the apocalypse happened is a little much. It is just a bit lazy, yet I ignored it and stayed committed.

I saw Rider Strong and instantly had nostalgia for Cabin Fever. Horror is definitely his genre after he graduated from Boys Meets World.

The cannibals are introduced properly, suggestive then full reveal, and even include some actors I recognized. They are very medieval, both in their dress and weaponry, not to mention their savagery. It draws a very clear contrast between the predators and prey. The choice was effective, if not a bit cliché. I did not need the costumes to identify them as barbarians; I could piece that together on my own. Their hunting techniques are also quite interesting (as usual, no spoilers!).

Then the movie begins to lose me bit by bit; it strays from caught my attention and seems to get sloppy, particularly with its characters and their various demises.

I never did get very invested in the characters. They start getting picked off so quickly that I began to forget who was left alive. Not that this a dealbreaker in a horror movie but I always prefer to actually care. Makes their departures all the more poignant.

The movie starts to actually unravel for me a bit around the “twist.” The acting gets looser; the plot gets a bit thinner; the dialog becomes contrived. Horror movies are known for eye-rolling lines, but I do not need my eyeballs rocking around in their sockets for an entire scene.

Yet even with its wobbly pace and abandoned character development, I continued to enjoy it enough. There is decent gore as the cannibals make their way through, nothing heart-stopping but enough for a cringe here and there. The apocalypse scenario passes my believability gauge; I could easily believe people would resort to coordinated cannibalism after the end.

I liked the premise and wanted to like the characters, but it all seemed to get looser as the movie went on. The climax was pretty weak. It simply lacked in execution after the initial setup. By the end, I was ready for everyone to just get killed off.

Overall, it was worth it. But only once.