Tooth and Nail Review
Directed by Mark Young
Starring Rachel Miner, Rider Strong, Robert Carradine, Vinnie Jones, and Michael Madsen
Survival of the fittest. In a post-apocalyptic world, people are trying to survive after simply running out of gas. Without gas, electricity then food become commodities of the past, causing riots and chaos to engulf the population of the world. Civilization crumbles into anarchy, surviving day-to-day with depleting resources.
Tooth and Nail tells the story of survivors in this post-apocalyptic world, taking refuge in an empty hospital. Rescuing a young girl, they soon discover that she was brutally attacked by a savage band of cannibals who followed them. These cannibals are known as Rovers, killing them one by one as the trapped survivors try to find a way to outwit their stalkers.
Being one of the After Dark Horrorfest films, I will admit that I have been surprised, startled, and disappointed by the varying titles in the recent yearly tradition of films to die for. Some are good, some are just okay, and some are simply terrible. Tooth and Nail is one of the more promising titles, bringing the Darwinian (attributed to Herbert Spencer) phrase “survival of the fittest” to a new level in the horror genre.
The group of survivors living in the abandoned hospital is led by an older male called Darwin or the professor, narrating the story behind civilization’s slow descent into anarchy and chaos. The rest of the group are young adults, ranging from adolescents in their early teens to young men and women in their early twenties. Living the American dream turned American nightmare, three of the survivors come upon Neon, the victim of a brutal attack.
Neon is the favored character of Tooth and Nail, her portrayal of the victim and of the villain are so much fun to watch, especially as the villain. She is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, which is how she describes herself once she reveals to one of the survivors, Dakota, who she really is in this fight against the Rovers. Playing the part of a victim, the professor vouches for Neon and welcomes her into the group of survivors without question.
However, Neon brings nothing but fear, uncertainty, and discourse amongst the survivors in the group. Splitting them up as easier targets for the Rovers, Neon acts like the uncertain new leader of the survivors after the professor is murdered. Escalating their fears with her stories from the previous Rovers’ attacks on her family, Neon forgoes telling them that she sold out her family to those flesh-eating brutes and became the leader of the Rovers.
Dakota fights back, giving into her animal instincts when she is the last survivor standing. The showdown between Dakota and the Rovers is quite mundane, especially because the Rovers are so docile since they ate drugged meat. War-painted and bloodied, Dakota dispatches them one by one, leaving Neon as the last to die before saving her fellow survivor Nova. Dakota becomes the narrator, speaking of the beast inside all of us that consumed the Rovers and Neon.
The Rovers themselves were a bit overly dressed, covered in furs and leather. The brutal, savage cannibals seemed to come from the middle ages or some medieval period time. Medieval weaponry and chain mail… Where did they get their hands on broad swords and lethal axes? Stolen from some abandoned museum, I am unsure of how they acquired these weapons, but it was a little over the top. However, the weaponry could have symbolized the reemergence of the more savage nature of those time periods.
Tooth and Nail was not overly bloody, but the concept of survival of the fittest brought this to a new level of chaos and anarchy. A civilization crumbled, wounded beyond repair, and human beings becoming more animal like with each passing day, scavenging for food and killing for water. With the most basic desire: to survive, Tooth and Nail is a journey into a post-apocalyptic world where you have to fight or die.