Top positive review
32 people found this helpful
You haven't been brushing, have you?
on July 13, 2004
Out of all the horror movies made in the last twenty to thirty years, I suspect that "The Dentist" is one of the few films capable of hitting a viewer where it hurts. Think about it for a second. How many horror films go completely over the top, completely into the realms of bizarre fantasy, to deliver the shocks? Quite a few. Let's face it; the chances that a killer in a hockey mask will bury a hatchet in your head are probably significantly worse than winning the lottery. When was the last time a pack of bloodthirsty demons from the netherworld accosted you and yours? Or a fairy tale creature-a leprechaun, for the sake of argument-appeared on your doorstep to wreak havoc because he thinks you stole his gold? There's nothing wrong with fantastical horror movies; fans of the genre eagerly suspend disbelief as a matter of course. Unfortunately, you'll have a tougher time getting the unpleasant "The Dentist" out of your head. Here's a horror movie that hits too close to home. Everyone goes to the dentist, or at least has once in their life, so the idea of a practitioner in the fine art of arresting tooth decay going completely insane should scare the bejeezus out of anyone. And it will. "The Dentist" comes from the wonderfully warped minds of Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna, they of such classics as "The Re-Animator" and "From Beyond."
Dr. Feinstone (Corbin Bernsen) appears to have the perfect life. He owns a thriving practice in the suburbs, drives a nice car, is married to a beautiful woman named Brooke (Linda Hoffman), and works hard to earn the respect of his many patients. You couldn't ask for a better existence, yet sinister seeds of discontent begin building in the mind of Dr. Feinstone. Little things, like a lost pair of cufflinks, send him into a dither. Too, the threat of an impending IRS audit conducted by the seedy Marvin Goldblum (Earl Boen) weighs on the dentist's mind like an anvil. What's worse, Feinstone concludes that his wife is cheating on him with Matt (Michael Stadvec), the guy who comes around to clean the pool. Any two of these problems could easily send the most even keeled amongst us shrieking into the abyss, but Feinstone has another problem, a problem that he thinks about aloud only when alone in the car or safely ensconced in his plush office. Apparently, the idea of decay is starting to assume a sublime importance in the mind of our fair dentist. He's beginning to understand that plaque often clings to every aspect of the human condition, that cavities can affect the soul as often as it does teeth. Feinstone, as a trained dentist and healer, soon believes he must do whatever is necessary to remove the decay afflicting the people around him.
Healing is often a painful process. When the dentist confirms that his wife is indeed cheating on him, he takes steps to insure that such acts will never happen again. When Agent Goldblum insists on receiving a free checkup as part of a far-reaching bribe, Feinstone teaches a lesson the G-man will not soon forget. And for all those employees with the temerity to question the boss's directives, well, there are ways to deal permanently with such insolence. What Feinstone doesn't seem to realize, much to the everlasting chagrin of those individuals around him, is that the decay he so fears has effectively sunk its wormy tendrils deep into his mind. Take the case of April Reign (Christa Sauls), a beauty queen seeking advice on how to brighten her smile. Feinstone's actions towards this ravishing woman are so despicable, so outside the boundaries of what comprises a healer, that we immediately recognize the dentist has lost his battle against decay before the war has even started. In a way, we should pity Dr. Feinstone even as the police uncover the bloody horrors in his office and his house. Very few of us appreciate the role dentists play in society. We fear them or make fun of them instead of lauding the brave men and women who undertake such a taxing occupation.
"The Dentist" is a remarkably fun film as well as an effective horror picture. Corbin Bernsen, never a personal favorite of mine, does an amazing turn as the deranged dentist. Even better are the grotesqueries parading across the screen, the reckless drillings, scrapings, extractions, and other assorted dental skills employed to gory effect by Feinstone as he attempts to stem the spread of decay. What he does to Agent Goldblum is downright horrific. "The Dentist" succeeds in many respects, none more so than in writer Gordon's and director Yuzna's brilliant maneuver to extend the idea of tooth decay to society at large. Isn't every nasty attribute of the human race really in essence a form of decay? And if it is, how does a healer go about eradicating the tartar of immorality? It must drive physicians, dentists, and other health care specialists utterly bonkers when they see patients refuse to follow advice that keeps a body and mind fit. Feinstone is obviously insane, but it's to the film's credit that we see why he loses his mind.
Don't expect to see much in the way of extras on the DVD of "The Dentist." Two trailers, for Peter Jackson's "Dead Alive" and one for this movie, and cast filmographies are the only things you get. Too bad. A commentary track from Yuzna, Gordon, and Bernsen might have been a nice touch. If you fear the dentist, this movie will probably give you the sweats. Personally, I'm thinking of giving the film to my dentist as a Christmas present.