The Dentist

07/28/2019 13:20

Film: The Dentist

Year: 1996

Director: Brian Yuzna

Writer: Dennis Paoli, Stuart Gordon and Charles Finch

Starring: Corbin Bernsen, Linda Hoffman and Michael Stadvec



This was a film that I though I had seen, but upon viewing it, I realized that I hadn’t. I might have seen part of the sequel, but I’m not entirely sure anymore. I was intrigued to see that Brian Yuzna was the director of this film as well seeing Stuart Gordon as a co-writer. I’m also going to be honest; I’m kind of scared of the dentist and having things wrong with my teeth. The synopsis here is an extremely successful dentist goes off the deep end after he catches his wife cheating on him.

We start off in the home of Dr. Alan Feistone (Corbin Bernsen). There is voice-over narration using an analogy about teeth that are decaying to describe his life. Things seem good on the surface, but underneath not so much. He is married to Brooke (Linda Hoffman). Alan is irate about a stain on his shirt about how she didn’t collect his cufflinks to go with another. It is their anniversary and she presents him with new ones. They have dinner reservations that night and they kiss. It is then he realizes that she is naked under her robe. This upsets him, especially as she was interacting with the pool boy, Matt (Michael Stadvec).

Alan talks with Matt before leaving and noticed there was a smudge of something on his wife’s leg that matches what’s on the pool boy’s hand. He then leaves for work, but sneaks back in. He believes that he is seeing his wife go down on Matt. He collects his gun and then follows him to the neighbor’s house, Paula (Lise Simms). It is there that he sees her taking him into the pool shed. Her dog then attacks Alan and he kills it with his gun.

At his practice, things are getting tense. He hasn’t shown up and his 8:30 appointment leaves. His office manager is trying to keep the peace, Candy (Jan Hoag) along with his two hygienists, Jessica (Molly Hagan) and Karen (Patty Toy). When he does show up, he takes back his first patient. It doesn’t go as well as he hallucinates and stabs the boy. He and his mother freaks out. He takes a pill and tries to pull it together with his second patient, April (Christa Sauls). He ends up thinking she is his wife and starts to fondle her while she is knocked out with nitrous oxide.

Back where Alan lives, the police investigate what happened to Paula’s dog. In charge is Detective Gibbs (Ken Foree) and with him is Detective Sunshine (Tony Noakes). Gibbs finds the bullet and has it sent off for analysis. It turns out there’s been a series of robberies in the area so they are wondering if it is the same criminal.

After what happened with April, it is decided to close the practice up for the day. This doesn’t bode well as there is an IRS issue and Marvin Goldblum is blackmailing Alan to keep it quiet. He has more important things on his mind though. He invites his wife to the office before going to dinner. He has a much darker plan in store for her though as he continues to lose touch with reality.

Having now seen this film all the way through for sure, I do have to say, there are some really good parts to it. Alan is interesting to me as a character. He is highly successful dentist in the Los Angeles area. He is very serious about his job, but he has some kind of mental issue. It is never really explored what it is, but his wife knows about it. She reminds him to take his pill and then scolds him at one point thinking he’s taken too many. What I also like, we don’t necessarily know what is real and what’s not. He sees his patients’ teeth as rotting and sees things as being dirty, when we know that they’re not. But where is the line? Is his wife really cheating on him? I know there’s a moment where we see her smoking when she claims she hasn’t, so there could be some things that he sees that really could happen. I like seeing this break with reality and his descent into madness.

I’ve already kind of stated, but this I have issues with teeth. Personally I’ve never had a cavity or a tooth pulled. I did have some orthodontic work done and since then, I’ve always taken really good care of my teeth. One of my fears is having something wrong with them and when films do things with teeth it makes me cringe. This film really does tick that box and seeing Yuzna do this film, I was expecting it. It did make me squirm and verbally call out a couple times, so I do have to give credit there.

I will say though that I was slightly disappointed. This I would say is a quasi-slasher film, which we saw quite a bit of in 80’s and then in the 90’s, they started to parody them. I saw that someone say this was a bad parody, but I really didn’t see it that way, if anything, it’s more of a satire. It is really poking that Alan has it all, but he isn’t happy and loses his mind. I would have liked to see them stick to the dentist aspect more with some of the kills. We do get quite a bit of that, but it does shy away pretty early for a stretch. Some of things that he does do though are pretty horrific.

The pacing of the film is a bit off as well. I do think that it builds tension and we really feel Alan’s descent into madness. The issue that I really encounter though is the film seems to lose itself and not really know where it wants to go. It does find its way. Regardless though, I am on board for what we get here, but that was something that I did notice. The ending is a bit anticlimactic as well. I do like the implications at the end of the film though.

Acting for this film I thought was actually pretty solid. Bernsen is good as the lead here. His descent into madness worked and I really did feel like that was the case. It is interesting that I never really saw this film, but I think of him in this role and from Major League. Hoffman is quite attractive and her performance is fine. What is interesting about her though is a lot of it is hallucinations that Alan is seeing. It was fun to see Foree in a different role than I’m used to. He isn’t great here, but definitely worked. Hagan is someone I’ve seen in other things and I really couldn’t place it while watching the film. She was solid as well as Toy. I would say that that the rest of the cast definitely rounded out the film for what was needed, with cameos by Boen and Mark Ruffalo as well. I do have to commend Virginya Keehne, I felt bad for this poor girl who just wanted her braces off.

This leads me to the effects of the film. I’ve seen Yuzna films in the past and I was ready for this one to get wild. To be honest, it is pretty subdued for him. They are done practically though and definitely look real enough to make me cringe and even call out like I said previously. I do like that there are effects done on the camera to signify that Alan is hallucinating as well. I would say overall they were good. The film is shot very well, with some interesting close-ups in character’s mouths.

The last thing to cover would be the soundtrack of the film. Overall I’d say that it fine for what was needed. I wanted to point out the use of classic music. It is interesting as Alan is really into this and opera. He is just moved by the music, which I think is in part to his refined taste. It does make some things feel a bit grander as well for me.

Now with that said, this film wasn’t necessarily what I was expecting, but I definitely liked it. The film has an interesting main character in Alan and his descent into madness after he witnesses something that breaks him from reality. The interesting thing though is that we aren’t necessarily sure it is what really happens though. I do think the film gets away from the theme it has set up a bit, but does do some really good things with it. The pacing does seem to lose its way a bit, but I think it does build tension. The ending is a bit anticlimactic though. The acting I would say is pretty solid across the board. The effects were a bit subdued for a Yuzna film and that did throw me off a bit. They are still practical and look good. The score of the film isn’t one that I would necessarily come back to, but it does fit the film for what is needed. I would say that this film is above average and an interesting satire with some slasher elements to it.


My Rating: 7 out of 10