Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Dentist (1996)

You better brush 3x a day!

Dr. Alan Feinstone (Corbin Bernsen) is a dentist who's a perfectionist to the extreme as he finds fault with everything down to the finest, nitty-gritty detail. From the doc himself: "Nothing, no matter how good or how pure is free of decay. Once the decay gets started, it can only lead to rot, filth, corruption." He has a philosophy that he uses to reinforce his tainted world views. He's already riding the cusp of unreasonableness and losing all perspective, and then is completely pushed over the edge when the IRS is breathing down his neck and he sees his wife getting frisky with the pool guy. In the state of cracking up and getting delusional to everything being wrong or dirty around him, he turns to taking out his aggression on teeth: stinking, rotting, corroding teeth.

No one's safe here: from the little boy and his first dentist trip to those looking to push around the guy who controls all those potentially nasty contraptions laying around the dental office. Every worst dentistry fear and agitation is capitalized here: scrapping metal against teeth, hooks into gums, touchy-feely while under, yanking teeth without anesthesia, needles shoved into gums, a noisy drill splintering molars and not to mention the endless waits. God help this last one! The whole experience is to make one cringe and supply a state of creepiness as it also takes on the view point of the "villain," or just the antihero of breaking down barriers of modern day constructs. If you nodded to the latter, you might be as loopy and sadistic as him. Though almost everyone else around him does a did-he-just-do-that double take, but typically back down because it goes to show how much someone in a white doctor's coat and in a position of authority is trusted.

The creative teams behind "Re-Animator" and "From Beyond" take a different route with "The Dentist," as it's a horror film that dodges the jaded and supernatural and goes for the day-to-day in the suburbs just like the one you're probably living in now. The horror is often captured in broad daylight and in innocent looking rooms. Instead of having a deeply enriched story, this is more of a character study and as a result it's a little more gradually paced than other horror films, as it steadily escalates and goes for the little subtlelties that cause him to have a mental breakdown. Meanwhile two detectives are butting their nose in from investigating a dead animal at the neighbor's house where the dentist first got the taste of blood. And the people that rely on him can only make so many excuses when all the amoral dabblings start to pile up.

Corbin Bernsen plays Dr. Feinstone with such conviction and intensity that when I see him in other roles, it's hard to shake the obsessive and sadistic dentist persona he held down and made his own. The actors around him range from just getting the job done to somewhat effective, but then that's as far as the limited scope the role can take them. The cinematography can get experimental at times, adding to the film's strange atmosphere. This has a completely pitch black sense of humor, as most of the people getting it aren't exactly deserving, just incidental victims. Even after a number of viewings over the years, this still gets me yelling out loud and reeling back because when it shows the carnage it gets the loudest sound effect and sometimes the tightest shot you can imagine. This is a campy movie that manages to do a turn around from what it appears to be at first glance due to the creative but loopy effort put into it.

My very own dentist has admitted to catching this one. Not sure if he said he liked it though...

Rating: 7.5/10

Director: Brian Yuzna (Bride of Re-Animator)
Stars: Corbin Bernsen, Linda Hoffman, Ken Foree
Link: IMDB


Dr. Feinstone: "Decay is always busy, so we're always busy."

Dr. Feinstone: "You don't know what it's like. The discipline, the long hours, the lack of respect in a world that goes on ignoring dental hygiene."

Dr. Feinstone: "I am an instrument of perfection and hygiene--the enemy of decay and corruption...a dentist."

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