Review: The Dentist

Posted by Peter Hall - April 30th 2007 @ 9:16 pm

Directed by Brian Yuzna, 1996
Written by Dennis Paoli, Stuart Gordon, Charles Finch

The Dentist DVD Cover

To me The Dentist is the straight-to-video movie.  I can’t tell if it was an actual STV release, but it is the one movie I remember seeing on video store shelves everywhere as a child and thinking to myself, "Wow, did they really make a horror movie about a Dentist?"  And, to me, that has always been what the video graveyard is all about: plots and characters too obviously non-obvious, entirely summed up in either the title or the cover art.

This was years and years before I was into horror, mind you.  Back, in fact, when horror movies used to scare the shit out of me.  Back when I used to fast forward through Event Horizon.  Back when I wore Harry Potter glasses before the Boy Who Lived even lived.  Now, over a decade later, I’ve finally seen Brian Yuzna’s The Dentist and can readily say that it holds up.  It holds up maniacally.

The Dentist isn’t just the quintessential straight-to-video, it is also certifiably batshit insane.

Corbin Bernsen (yes, that guy from the Major League movies) plays the titular man obsessed with moral and physical hygiene.  Believing that the world is in a perpetual state of decay, Dr. Feinstone snaps after learning of his wife’s sexual liberties with the low class, unclean pool boy.  Every patient becomes the filthy embodiment of his cheating wife, the only recourse is to constantly cleanse this unbearable plaque that coats the sinful, unappreciative miscreants of the world.

The script, and more importantly, Yuzna’s implementation of it, is a thorough, convincing look into a man who has lost his fucking mind.  Thought provoking has never been a term associated with Corbin Bernsen in my book, but his performance here is a great deal more complex than anything else the man has done.   Yuzna treats his insanity as a woeful burden and the resulting character is a brilliant psycho who genuinely seems all too plausible a person in the real world.

Granted you know you’re in for a dentist killing people the second you lay eyes on the movie, but the script is never a one note deal.  It is stocked with a creative supporting cast, providing much steam for the movie to coast from break down to break down without ever becoming repetitive.

Make up is good, the sound effects even better – especially by mid-90s schlock standards.  I hope I never hear the bone shivering sound of a dentist drill again in my life.  There is no other sound in this world that cuts through me as effectively as that shrill whine.

The movie isn’t scary nor is it lame and trashy, but rather consistently fascinating.  You want the story to keep spiraling out of control.  And since there are so many layers to the character and Yuzna’s art in capturing him, you keep digging for the Nitrous Oxide to be cranked up, the patients personal privacy to be buried below and the good Dentist to be devilishly invasive somewhere in between.

In the game of studio horror, The Dentist would most likely have been dead on arrival (and, again, I’m not sure if it had a theatrical run or not, to me I’ve just always assumed it didn’t), but in the world of what emblazons the soul of straight-to-video horror, Dr. Feinstone is King.

This flick is a must see experience for people like me who always stared at the VHS covers in the horror section of Blockbuster.  The Dentist is a monument to the exact fan love those kind of movies can, but rarely do, inspire.  It is a kick to watch and even more of one to talk about.  Wild stuff.


rss 6 comments
  1. shawn
    May 1st, 2007 | 11:21 am | #1

    I am pretty sure it was straight to video. Checking imdb’s page on it and clicking on box office business shows only the budget ( 2.5 mil ) but shows no revunue from a theatrical run. On another note I am glad this isn’t terrible as I have wanted to see it since I saw the clip from it on my boogeyman dvd.

  2. R.J. Sayer
    May 1st, 2007 | 11:36 am | #2

    this review makes me wonder how much older i am than you…

    i remember seeing EVENT HORIZON in the theatre and being pissed off because it wasn’t scary enough…

  3. R.J. Sayer
    May 1st, 2007 | 11:37 am | #3

    but i digress…

    THE DENTIST is one of those titles i’ve always wanted to check out… but for some reason never did.

    thanks to your review, i’ll be aggressively trying to rectify that.

  4. Cody
    May 1st, 2007 | 3:01 pm | #4

    Makes me think of Dr. Giggles, which scared the living shit out of me when I was little and the sitter let me watch it.

  5. May 1st, 2007 | 3:01 pm | #5

    I’m 21, which puts me at the ripe ‘ole age of 12 when Event Horizon came out. I’ve got no problem admitting it scared the shit out of me as a kid. Doesn’t do a thing now, of course…

  6. May 8th, 2007 | 3:07 pm | #6

    I’m a big fan of The Dentist. I actually saw the second one first, and that wasn’t too bad either. Corbin Bernsen does a great turn in maniacal neuroses.

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