Doctor Feinstone lives a perfect life. He has a beautiful wife, a huge house with an outdoor pool and a very successful job as a dentist. However one day comes along where everything goes wrong for him. He discovers his wife is having an affair with pool attendant and the I.R.S. are closing in on him for tax problems. He snaps and begins to take out his frustration on his patients, inflicting all manner of horrific dental torture on them.
Warning: The Dentist is not a film for everyone. If you have a fear of the dentist then this isn’t the film for you. In fact, even if you don’t have a fear of the dentist, you might after having seen this. Admittedly The Dentist does opt for the cheap shock treatment of utilising a lot of people’s worst fear to its advantage but it’s much more than just a tacky slasher. The Dentist turns itself into a gripping and horrific thriller in which every last dental cliché is going to be thrown at the audience in the hope that something strikes a chord with them. We’ve all been sat in that chair. We know what it feels like to be helpless with someone prodding dental implements in your mouth. Well this plays upon that but not before we’ve been given a master class in character build-up.
Corbin Bernsen is simply brilliant as the deranged Dr Feinstone. He’s not exactly 100% sane to start the film with his obsession with cleanliness but when he snaps, you can almost sympathise with him. He loves his wife dearly and takes pride in his job but when his marriage falls apart and his job causes problems, there’s nothing else for him and you can only feel sorry for him. Feinstone’s descent into total madness takes it’s time to come to fruition and it’s good to see director Brian Yuzna spend so much time in building the character up. It may be a little slow but it’s like that for a good reason. Bernsen may have slummed around in many cheap B-movies but his performance here is the right mix of scene-chewing silliness and scary seriousness. He knows when the push the right buttons towards the audience especially during the torture scenes and displays a perfect balance of humour and horror. Linda Hoffman has the supporting role as his wife and looks fantastic, providing the more-than-ample nudity factor. Both Ken Foree and Earl Boen are wasted in small roles.
So let’s get down to the real notoriety of the film – the scenes in the chair. These scenes of dental torture are brutal, there’s no two ways around it. There are plenty of close-ups so you get a good first-hand look at all of the damage he causes. I’ve seen everything from people being eaten alive, heads chopped off, intestines ripped out, limbs severed and the like but I haven’t grimaced as much as I did when the dentist destroys a woman’s tooth to dust with the drill. It’s stomach-churning material because it looks so real. It’s for this reason that the film has the high 18 rating in the UK. There’s not much gore elsewhere in the film but these dental torture scenes are pretty horrific because they look so realistic.
There’s a reason this doesn’t get the full marks treatment though and that’s because of the finale. The film was going so well up until the final third inside the dentist’s surgery but its here where it reduces itself to a mess of generic stalk clichés and the pay-off doesn’t pack the punch it should. I guess there’s only so much leverage the script could give a character as deranged as Feinstone before it had to resort to such stereotypical slasher tactics.
The Dentist is a totally underrated gem of a horror flick and one of the best of the 90s low budget scene. If you have a fear of the dentist, then DO NOT watch this film as it will reinforce your wildest nightmares. If you don’t fear the dentist, you’ll still think again after seeing it.