Dr. Alan Feinstone (Corbin Bernsen) is a Dentist and a very damaged man.
His life is ruled by a zealots passion for cleanliness, order and respect and the fact that his Wife Brooke (Linda Hoffman) is (along with half the street it seems) having sex with the new Pool Guy only heaps more strain on Feinstones fragile mind.
On the fateful day we meet Feinstone at his high tech Dental Surgery (complete with various rooms with relaxing themes and music to make the patients feel at ease) he is already on the path to complete madness after discovering what his wife has been up to and is making life very hard for his staff,
Jessica (Molly Hagan), Karen (Patty Toy) and Candy (Jan Hoag), as well as his patients.
And when Marvin Goldblum (Earl Boen, The Terminator) of the IRS hassles Feinstone about his taxes and Detective Gibbs (Ken Dawn of the Dead Foree) sniffs around investigating the shooting of a neighbourhood dog (yep, the Dentists first victim!) it all becomes too much for the good Doctor and he is beset with hallucinations of rotting teeth and general filth.
But things are about to get much, much worse...
Brian Yuzna is still best known as the Producer of Re-Animator, but his own forays into directing have at least been interesting (Society) if never always successful (Bride of Re-Animator) but The Dentist is certainly one of his better efforts.
If the opening 50 minutes is rather slow (although it does build-up Feinstones madness in detail rarely seen in such films) the final half hour packs in many gory and sadistic goings-on and those first 50 minutes are made entertaining by the wonderful performance of barely restrained mania by Bernsen.
Bernsen hit it really big in the 80s with TV show L.A. Law, but his move to film (although prolific) meant an almost endless stream of B movies and he never hit as big as L.A. Law seemed to hint was possible.
But in the role of Feinstone he truly gives it his all and more importantly does it with respect. He may have to go of the rails and chew a bit of scenery, but he never takes the piss out of the role, the film, or the target audience.
His character is also given some fun dialogue (and as any knowledgeable trash fan knows dialogue is crucial to rounding out a good, high camp, enjoyable psycho) and Bernsen makes the most of it and you truly believe such rants as:
You dont know what its like! The discipline, the long hours, the lack of respect! And a world that goes on ignoring dental hygiene!
I am an instrument of perfection and hygiene . The enemy of decay and corruptiona dentistand I have a lot of work to do.
Away from Bernsen the rest of the cast do at least a perfectly good job and although fan fave Ken Foree (whose hardly aged since the glory days of Romeros classic) is only given a pretty small support character in Detective Gibbs, he gives it his all and once again makes the most of some enjoyable lines:
Det. Sunshine: Why would he want to shoot a dog?
Det. Gibbs: Because hes a Dentist and is capable of anything
The fact that, by its very design and function, dental equipment is basically a set of torture devices being used under controlled circumstances, means that when that control is removed we have a classic set-up for a nasty horror film. And youll be happy to know that Yuzna (and scriptwriters Dennis Paoli, Stuart Gordon and Charles Finch) deliver on that horrifying idea.
Special FX crew Shea Clayton, Anthony C. Ferrante and Christopher Allen Nelson give us some wonderful gore props as well as aftermath make-up.
Injections into gums and the close-ups of Feinstone making a real mess of a tooth drilling are truly horrible sequences designed to generate as much squirming from the audience as possible and the FX pull off the illusion perfectly.
And with such gory and wincing FX to use, the movie most certainly revels in the sadism of the dental tortures with all the glee of a naughty child, and these actual tortures are also backed up in the nastiness league by the resulting effect of them on the now barely living victims. There's also a delightfully messy and moist knifing to add a bit of the red stuff to the movie away from the Dental Surgery.
But the film also likes to have fun in it's wickedness as is shown by a wonderful moment where an enraged Feinstone ensures that his Wife truly gets a mouthful of the randy Pool Guy! Oh, and a bit of nudity is also thrown in just to spice things up between the dental damage.
Although the end is rather confused (logic has to mean its another hallucination, especially given the fact a sequel followed), and theres not really much to the movie (basically its one guy going more and more mad for two days) and the pacing is getting sluggish as we near the half hour mark, on the whole The Dentist is an unpretentious, well made, well acted, ghoulish little romp thats filled with suitably grotesque visuals and basically does all it sets out to do with bloody aplomb.
Take a seat...Open wide.......
- 42nd Street Freak