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.