Dentists. Sheesh. My childhood dentist was, I maintain to this day, an absolute sadist. He (and several after him) never believed me when I said something hurt or I wasn’t numb enough. There was maybe a period of 10-15 years where I didn’t go to the dentist at all. I finally had an issue that caused me enough pain to go back. At the time I was living in Massachusetts. The dentist was fine, located right near my apartment, and alleviated the problem.
Obviously none of this was helped by The Marathon Man in which Laurence Olivier did for orthodontia what Bruce did for beaches and Pennywise did for clowns. There’s a great story about William Goldman mentioning the dentist idea to his own periodontist who informed him that drilling into a healthy tooth would be far worse than a cavity. Apparently this was made exponentially more chilling by the calm, soft-spoken, matter-of-fact tone with which the doctor made this observation.
And then along comes The Dentist, a clearly tongue-in-cheek black comedy with a wicked bite. It’s about, duh, a dentist, Dr. Feinstone (Corbin Bernsen), who discovers his wife Brooke has some interesting ideas regarding pool maintenance.
Feinstone is already wound a little tight and has morbid visions of filth and decay. His wife’s affair finally flips his switch. During his first appointment of the day he starts hallucinating and in the process sticks the kid he’s working on. Oops.
It’s pretty much downhill from there as Feinstone commences to a-drillin’ pillin’ n’ killin’ during a drug-fueled homicidal oral hygiene spree, poppin’ tablets like Pez, seeing decay every damn where, and goin’ after everyone who causes him problems or is nominally associated with his wife’s affair.
dental mental by the end, he proclaims (in front of a bunch of dental students) that the only way to get ahead of oral health problems is to pull their patients’ teeth. Every. Single. One of ’em.
Along with being twisted, The Dentist is also downright silly and never takes itself too seriously. Plus it’s always a good time to see what zany hijinks Brian Yuzna and Stuart Gordon get up to together. In this case, Yuzna is in the director’s chair with Gordon as one of the writers. This movie is simultaneously hilarious and deeply disturbing. I mean, I personally don’t know anyone who enjoys much less looks forward to going to the dentist, and this little nightmare sure as hell don’t help.
Surprisingly, there’s not as much periodontal mayhem as one might expect. Feinstone damages some dentition but doesn’t actually orthodont anyone to death. Mainly he shoots, stabs, and strangles his way through the plot. Still, every dentist’s chair scene is super squirmy and flinch inducing, things like assaulting a woman under nitrous oxide, grinding someone’s tooth all the way down to the gum line, pulling all his wife’s teeth and cutting her tongue out, and the “oh you’re fucked now” conclusion.
Finally, lest anyone harbor any concerns about the state of my oral health, rest assured that my current dentist is my all-time favorite. If there’s gonna be any drillin’ she pumps me so full of novocaine that I’m dead from the neck up. Still, like John Waters says, “Anyone can have a bad night,” so there’s always that little part of me that wants to make sure she’s having a great day.
BODIES- 4 onscreen (including a dog, so be warned)
Stream- AMC+, Plex, Prime, Roku, Shudder, Sling,Tubi, Vudu
Rent- Apple TV, FandangoNow, Google Play, YouTube
P.S. Suggested pairing- double feature with Driller Killer or Teeth.