The Dentist DVD Review

Written by Sham

DVD released by Trimark

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Directed by Brian Yuzna
Written by Dennis Paoli, Stuart Gordon, and Charles Finch
1996, 92 minutes, Rated R

Starring:
Corbin Bernsen as Dr. Alan Feinstone
Ken Foree as Detective Gibbs
Linda Hoffman as Brooke Feinstone
Molly Hagan as Jessica
Patty Toy as Karen
Tony Noakes as Detective Sunshine
Michael Stadvec as Matt
Virginya Keehne as Sarah
Earl Boen as Marvin Goldblum

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Review:

A lot of people are afraid of the dentist. And heck, with the prices of a regular check up these days, it’s no wonder why.

The Dentist, a slasher-esque horror movie from cult movie director Brian Yuzna, gives everyone a reason to be afraid of the dentist. And no, it’s not the bill this time. It’s the drill. This dentist is sick, savagely brutal, and, at the same time, completely brilliant. What better subject for a villain than a Californian dentist?

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Dr. Alan Feinstone (Corbin Bernsen – Tidal Wave: No Escape) is just that, and he has it all. He has a beautiful wife named Brooke (Linda Hoffman – Face/Off), a lavish home, and a great reputation earned by a prolific career in dentistry. But something’s not quite right. Alan’s not so perfect after all. Brooke is inexcusably screwing the filthy pool boy, Matt (Michael Stadvec – Sometimes They Come Back… For More), and this just sets Alan off. He must make them pay. In the process, however, the employees and patients of his business suffer as well, as his insanity begins to trigger at the sight of dirt, grime, and most of all, bad dental hygiene.

It pays to maintain a healthy smile. And in this case, you pay if you don’t.

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Point blank: this is not a film for everyone. It’s a well-made thriller – taut, disturbing, and gripping – but it’s hardly enjoyable for certain viewers. If you’re afraid of the dentist, you’re not going to be entertained by a man getting his mouth stretched apart to a bone-shattering climax. It’s just not going to happen. True, people who suffer from dental phobia are not likely to watch this movie in the first place, but I am inclined to guarantee this: viewers may develop that fear after seeing this film.

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However, as good as The Dentist is, it’s not a great movie. After all, it is a B-movie from a legendary B-movie filmmaker. Through all of its brutality and efficiency, it is still a film with a weak script. While brilliant, it’s also derivative of other movies of the same nature. We’ve seen a doctor go insane, and his name was Dr. Giggles.

But whether you love it or hate it, The Dentist is an effective horror movie that, while being cheesy, directs its audience through scenes of well-staged torture and sadism. It works because it does everything it sets out to do, and it does it well.

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The film has a hilariously exaggerated performance from Corbin Bernsen, who plays the sadistic Dr. Feinstone with humor and ingenuity, as his character slowly develops from a paranoid husband to a murderous debtor. Never before has a dynamic character been so memorable, at least not since Kathy Bates’s psychotic nurse character, Annie Wilkes, in Misery. Bernsen’s best moment is when he dreams of confronting his wife while she’s giving oral sex to the pool boy, where he shouts at them, “I am a dentist, and this is my wife! That means she’s got a perfect bite. Come on, hun, and show him how good your teeth look!”

Supporting actors are pretty good too, especially from Ken Foree (Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III). Foree is best known for having played Peter in George Romero’s zombie classic Dawn of the Dead, but don’t expect to see the zombie-punching, ass-kicking rebel that you saw then. Here, he plays Gibbs, a local detective hot on Feinstone’s trail after he is involved with a case of a dead dog. While being onscreen for less than twenty minutes, he certainly does a fine job getting into character. Furthermore, he does an even better job at leading his character away from the clichéd city detective, like those cops seen in television crime dramas.

It’s one thing to play the character, and it’s another thing to make the character yours. And Foree separates the two impeccably by going above and beyond my expectations.

However, playing a role seriously in a cheesy film doesn’t always work. Is The Dentist the case in point?

In a way, yes.

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It’s cheesy because, for one, the movie ends up being insanely unrealistic in the last act. The twist ending is anything but a twist – and an embarrassment to the rest of the film. Not to mention to the cops, who are even dumber to have not known the “twist” beforehand.

However, the majority of the film is so gripping and brutal that the good outweigh the bad, and that makes The Dentist one of the most overlooked horror movies from the '90s.

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Video and Audio:

The Dentist is presented in a 16x9 widescreen transfer. While there’s a lot of noticeable grain—most notably in the opening sequence of a padded cell’s white walls—it doesn’t detract terribly from the movie. Everything can still be seen and appreciated, but a cleaner picture would have been nice.

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Audio has been digitally mastered, and the result sounds pretty good. The movie is carried by a lot of dialogue, and eventually a lot of screaming near the end of the film, and the two compare well without overpowering the other.

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Special Features:

Special features consist of theatrical trailers for The Dentist and Dead Alive and cast information. Featurettes and commentaries would be really nice, because I would love to see how they did the scenes of dental torture.

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Grades:

Movie: Threeandahalfstars – An underrated and brutal film with a great performance from Corbin Bernsen.
Video: Threestars – Nothing to get excited about, but it works.
Audio: Threeandahalfstars – The audio sounds pretty good, but it won’t blow you away.
Features: Onestar – More bonus material would’ve been nice, as there’s hardly any here.
Overall: Threeandahalfstars – Brutally effective with a stand-out performance from Corbin Bernsen, The Dentist is a well-made thriller from Brian Yuzna. I only wish there were more special features on the DVD.

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Conclusion:

The Dentist is definitely worth a rental, as long as you think you’re up for a severe amount of dental torture. The movie sells for under ten dollars, which is appropriate as the DVD doesn’t have a lot to offer. I would strongly recommend a rental before a purchase, because this movie isn’t for everyone.

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