Dentistry is frightening to a lot of people. Vampiric dentistry, on the other hand, is a whole other ballgame; one that that just so happens to be the subject of Snaggletooth.
Written and directed by Colin Bishopp, Snaggletooth is a short horror comedy about Mary-Alice (Jolie Ledford), a peculiar young girl who has a late-night dentist appointment to fix her titular snaggletooth problem. Combining a suitably gothic atmosphere with a lighthearted emotional core, Snaggletooth marks a confident and gleefully entertaining debut short film for this director.
From the first frame, in which Mary-Alice and her mother, Catherine (Sierra Marcks) arrive at a gothic-looking house where Mary-Alice’s dentist has taken up shop, this film establishes its roots in classic horror. The production design on display here—from the vintage wallpaper that decorates the house to the Wednesday-Addams-style (albeit slightly more colorful) wardrobe of the protagonist—is exceptional and helps create the gothic atmosphere that pervades over the whole film. The visuals have confidence and style, and that speaks volumes about the care and effort that the filmmakers and art department put into this film.
It also helps that the cast has a good handle on their roles. This is a rare film in which everyone in the cast seems to be on the same page about the tone of the project they’re in, and as a result, they play off of each other well. They make their characters entertaining to watch, even with the sparse amount of dialogue and relatively simple scenes. Jolie Ledford imbues the monstrous adolescent Mary-Alice with both sass and irritation that is very enjoyable. Susan Louise O’Connor is also worth highlighting for her performance as dental assistant Mrs. Murnau, whose blasé personality and general nonchalance are decidedly amusing. Everyone makes the most out of their characters without trying to steal the scenes or upstage, and the effect is a cast that works well as a whole.
Most admirable, however, is the film’s lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek tone. This is a film about dentistry for vampires, and everyone involved understands how silly this is without ever overplaying it. It approaches the humor with restraint, allowing it to arise from the absurdity of the situation rather than relying on gags or pausing for a joke. It manages to be delightfully fun while still maintaining that gothic, old-school horror atmosphere.
If I had any critiques, it would be that I wish the lighting leaned more heavily into the gothic horror influences that are present in the film’s production design. The cinematography on display is crisp and polished, but the lighting on display feels a little on the flat side. This doesn’t detract from the film, but the use of high contrast, moody lighting would have complimented the atmosphere this film so carefully builds quite nicely.
Considering that this is his debut short film, Colin Bishopp hit an absolute home run with Snaggletooth and asserts himself as a filmmaker to keep an eye. It’s a gleefully gothic affair that endears the audience with an endearingly monstrous adolescent at its center. It makes for a really fun time that’s definitely worth sinking your teeth into.