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The Dentist is a Dull Driller Thriller [Retrospective]

The Dentist 1996

Corbin Bernsen stars in The Dentist as Dr. Alan Feinstone. He has a thriving practice and a wife that just can’t keep her hands off the hired help. When Alan catches his bride in the throws of passion with the pool boy, he loses it. He starts killing anyone that represents filth to him, especially his dirty, dirty patients.

The Dentist is unique for the fact that it is told from the perspective of the killer instead of the point of view of a final girl or other cast member that isn’t the killer. That works well when the killer is someone that the audience can identify with but I didn’t find myself connecting with Alan. I felt sorry for him because his wife was unfaithful but that didn’t warrant going out and killing all of his “filthy” patients. A more elaborate backstory might have made the viewer more sympathetic to Alan but as it stands, he is not very easy to warm up to.

Brian Yuzna  (Return of the Living Dead 3) directs The Dentist with Stuart Gordon (Reanimator) co-penning the script. It’s unfortunate that with a creative team that includes the legendary Stuart Gordon, The Dentist couldn’t rise even to the level of mediocrity. I have to say that the majority of the problem lies with Yuzna’s direction but Gordon’s script isn’t his best work either. Everything about the film is bad. The set design is bad, the screenplay is lacking, the acting is bad, and the direction is poor.

Brian Yuzna does nothing to help this disastrous production that is The Dentist. He takes a less than stellar script with a couple of funny one-liners and makes it worse. He then takes actors with a modicum of talent and manages to get poor performances out of them.

The performances in The Dentist are pretty bad. Corbin Bernsen is the best of the bunch. I hope that his scenery chewing dialogue was intentional. If it wasn’t, that makes it even worse. I suspect that he understood the farcical nature of the film and tried to run with it and make the best of a bad film. All of the other performances are bland, poorly acted, and easily forgettable.

The Dentist represents a concept that could have worked very well: Who isn’t scared of the dentist? This picture takes one of the greatest fears of the public at large and squanders the concept with bad acting and an ill-fated attempt to tell the story from the point of view of a character that the audience doesn’t really like.

In addition to a series of other problems, the pacing is really off kilter in The Dentist. It’s up, it’s down, it’s up, and then the film is over. The Dentist never consistently sustains any level of suspense and that makes it very easy for the viewer to lose interest before the climax is even close to approaching.

The set design is really awful. Many of the scenes are very obviously filmed on a sound stage and the scenes that aren’t filmed on a sound stage feature poorly chosen décor and look very artificial.

The body count in The Dentist is reasonable. It’s one of the only things that make this film remotely worth watching. It’s not too high and it’s not too low. The gore effects are way tamer than they should be for a film that is so lacking in every other department. Sometimes, really exceptional carnage can salvage a film that is full of problems No such luck here. There are fans that appreciate The Dentist on a so bad it’s good level but I fail to appreciate it even on that level. I just think The Dentist is bad and has nearly no redeeming qualities.

I am curious as to how this low-budget suck fest actually got a sequel. Regardless, The Dentist is only for die-hard slasher fans and only because we watch everything, good or bad…and this picture definitely falls into the bad category. If you must watch it, The Dentist is available on DVD from LionsGate.


Director(s): Brian Yuzna
Writer(s): Dennis Paoli, Stuart Gordan
Stars: Corbin Bernsen, Linda Hoffman
Year: 1996
Studio/ Production Co: Trimark Pictures
Budget: $2.6 Million
Language: English
Length: 92 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Slasher


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Written by Tyler Doupé
Tyler Doupe' is the managing editor at Wicked Horror. He has previously penned for Fangoria Mag, Rue Morgue Mag, FEARnet, Fandango, ConTV, Ranker, Shock Till You Drop, ChillerTV, ComingSoon, and more. He lives with his husband, his dog, and cat hat(s).
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