Just got home from the dentist, wherein I had three of my four wisdom teeth yanked out of my jaw. I'm flying pretty high on Vicodin and while I'm sitting here in suppressed pain and under the influence of some pretty seriously awesome drugs, I thought it'd be pretty cool, and quite fitting, to finally get around to revisiting both The Dentist 1 & 2, and offer up my inebriated thoughts on both. I haven't watched either of these since I saw them back when I was a kid on VHS, so I've been meaning to revisit them for a while now. What better way to do so than while high, bleeding profusely from the mouth and recouping from serious dental surgery?! No better way, says I!
Before I get around to popping in this epic double feature of gruesome dentistry, let me first give ya a brief rundown of how the operation went.
Despite all the horror stories I've heard, the triple extraction (I was supposed to get all four pulled, but the doc decided that one could stay) was actually quite pleasant and not at all painful or uncomfortable in the least. I was given the choice of either A) having local anesthesia and nothing more or B) having the local anesthesia on top of inhaling Nitrous Oxide Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet style, while also simultaneously being hooked up to a Valium IV. Intent on this experience being as pleasurable as possible, being that I'm a total pussy when it comes to dental work, I opted for option B, the Valium and Nitrous cocktail. With the Bane-like mask strapped to my face and the needle full of Valium pumping a steady stream of the good stuff directly into my veins, I gotta say, I felt pretty damn good, to the point that I never once felt even a single pain or unpleasant feeling during the whole operation. In fact, dare I say, I kind of even enjoyed it and honestly wouldn't have minded if the dentist went ahead and just plucked all of my teeth out. Hell, he could've even fondled my man bits and I don't think I would've stopped him. "Hey, John, what do you think about us removing your arms and legs while we're at it?" ... "Sure doc, be my guest!"
After all the fears and worries, the whole thing was over in mere minutes and I soon found myself in the comfort of my bed at home, high on prescription Vicodin that took hold as soon as the Valium wore off. So in summation, I got the day off of work and got to get legally fucked up in public and then encouraged to pop a bunch of painkillers for the next couple days, doctor's orders. Not a bad day, if ya ask me!
Being the sick individual that I am, I of course asked to keep the three wisdom teeth that were pulled from my head, which I will share with you at the end of this post. Before then, you must endure my high on Vicodin thoughts about two of my childhood favorites, the two horror films that forever made me terrified of taking a trip to the dentist. So without further adieu, let's get this double feature started!
THE DENTIST - 1996
On the surface, Dr. Alan Feinstone is a dream dentist, the kind of guy you'd trust with sticking sharp objects in your children's mouths. He's got different rooms in his office decked out to deliver different experiences for his patients, including one themed as a tropical environment, where he even has his assistant rock a Hawaiian shirt. Not a bad place to get some dental work done ... or so it seems. Just beneath that surface lies the true Dr. Feinstone, a fastly progressing psychopath who dreams of forcing his cheating wife to bite the pool boy's dick off, sees his hatreds for humanity manifested as visible black dental decay and molests his female patients while they're under the influence of copious amounts of Nitrous Oxide. Yaaa, so I guess he's not the kinda guy you'd want probing around your kid's mouth after all. Or your own, for that matter.
Based on a real life dentist/serial killer, Corbin Bernsen stars as the titular dentist in this gem from a time which many look back on as an era when horror was dead in the water. Released in 1996, the film was directed by Brian Yuzna and written by Dennis Paoli and Stuart Gordon, who together wrote the Gordon directed Re-Animator 10 years prior. Funny because The Dentist is akin to Re-Animator in many ways, both sharing the common trait of a mad doctor pushed to the brink of his insanity, killing animals and taking his practice to levels most doctors do not. The Dentist can almost even be seen as Re-Animator by way of Taxi Driver, with a deranged doctor going around fixing what he believes to be wrong with the world, fully convinced that he's just doing his job and at times even getting the viewer on his side. Shit, did I really just compare The Dentist to Taxi Driver? Goddamn, this Vicodin is one hell of a drug.
I've always been a fan of Brian Yuzna's films and have always felt he's very underrated as a genre filmmaker, with efforts like Return of the Living Dead 3 & Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 never quite getting the fan appreciation that I feel they deserve. As far as 90's horror goes he's one of my favorites, one of the few filmmakers who was churning out decent material in the pre-Scream horror drought. The late 80's/early 90's were an interesting time for the genre, when the extreme gore and superhuman killers of the majority of the 80's gave way to more reality based killers, which resulted in a whole lot of what I like to call 'profession horror', movies which depicted people with ordinary jobs such as ice cream men, carpenters and cops as mass murderers. Though it's certainly not the best horror movie from the decade, The Dentist has always been one of my favorites of that sub-genre of seemingly ordinary people with ordinary jobs harboring dark murderous secrets.
The highlights here are obviously the scenes where the killer dentist is performing his crude brand of dentistry, with some pretty solid practical effects and several great inside the mouth camera views that bring to life a fair share of highly awesome and brutal sequences of dental torture, carried out by an on top of his game Corbin Bernsen, who turns the role into one of the more memorably underrated villains in 90's horror. Pretty much the entire movie hinges on his performance and boy does he rock the part, creating a totally nutso and yet at times likeable and dare I say relatable bad guy. There's another dude who doesn't ever seem to get the respect he deserves.
It's funny watching the movie nowadays because as a kid, minor appearances from a young Mark Ruffalo as well as Dawn of the Dead's Ken Foree never stuck out to me. Nowadays, being big fans of both, I was quite surprised to see them in there, albeit in very brief appearances. Who knew!
Watching The Dentist today brought back a lot of memories for me and I had as much fun with it as I remember having with it back when I was a kid. Always nice when that can be said about a childhood favorite, which unfortunately often cannot. So hooray for that!
THE DENTIST 2 - 1998
Speaking of bringing back memories, the Dentist 2 box art is one that I vividly remember staring back at me at my local Blockbuster as a youth, so much so that I've always believed that I had seen the movie until I popped it in today. It's possible that I did a long long time ago and just don't remember a lick of it, but I'm pretty certain that this was my first actual viewing of the film, as none of it brought back memories like watching the first one did. So I guess I lied up above when I said that these two movies were childhood favorites. But goddamn, is that razor toothed box art awesome or what?!
Two years after his first foray into dental terror, Corbin Bernsen is back as the killer dentist, with Brian Yuzna once again at the helm. Though he ended up in a mental hospital at the end of the first film, Feinstone breaks out at the beginning of this one (he stitched a scalpel into his leg at some point before getting locked up and uses that to escape...yep), changing his name to Lawrence Caine and relocating to a small town to start anew. Turns out his tongue-less wife is still alive (ole Corbin mutilated her in the first one) and she's hired a private investigator to track down Caine/Feinstone, who is desperately trying to suppress his desires to be the dentist/killer that we as an audience know he is eventually gonna revert back to.
Whereas the first Dentist saw Bernsen's character descend into madness, starting out as a successful and seemingly normal dentist and then morphing into a brutal killer, in this sequel he's already mad to begin with, so the majority of the film is able to focus on his complete insanity rather than his descent into insanity, which made the movie even more of a fun experience for me. Bernsen is once again on top of his game here and it's highly entertaining to watch him try and be a normal dude in the first half, doing everything he can to stop the crazy thoughts in his head and stay away from dentistry all together. Of course, all hell inevitably breaks loose when the small town dentist does some shoddy work on a tooth Caine chipped while eating dinner, which leads him to once again go off the deep end, killing the dentist and taking over his practice. From there, it's back to his old ways, maiming and brutalizing the mouths of his patients.
One of those patients, who identifies Caine as being Dr. Feinstone, thereby driving him even more over the edge, is Clint Howard, the man who played another one of my favorite under appreciated 90's killers; Gregory Tudor in 1995's Ice Cream Man. For me, seeing the Dentist and the Ice Cream Man go at it was worth the price of admission alone, a price that was quite low given that I picked both of these discs up at Hollywood Video when they were going out of business for a dollar a piece. But still, their shared scene is pure gold and put a huge smile on my face.
Just like in the first Dentist, there's plenty of gruesome teeth pulling and grinding in this one, all once again shown up close and in graphic detail. It's almost as if there are cameras affixed to Bernsen's dental tools and I absolutely love the cringe inducing sequences of him pulverizing mouths. Unfortunately, there's not as much of that kinda stuff in here as there was in the first, but that's all made up for in the final half hour of the film.
The events of both films come to a head in these last 30 or so minutes, with a particularly brutal dental torture sequence which leads into Caine/Feinstone battling both the love interest in this one as well as his tongue-less wife from the first. It's a pretty brutal finale, which sees Bernsen going full Jack Torrance for a clearly Shining inspired final act (at one point he smears a victim's blood all over his face), which ends with the absolutely batshit awesome imagery of Bernsen driving off presumably to the next town, maniacally laughing and pulling nails out of his head which were fired into him via his nail gun wielding love interest. It's the kind of totally off the wall material that I wish both films spent a bit more time reveling in, but nevertheless I had a blast with this one just as I did with the first, if not even moreso.
Ok, now it's time for your reward for making it through my painkiller fueled ramblings about two horror flicks that I enjoy perhaps a bit more than anyone has any business enjoying, enjoyment which was no doubt amplified by said painkillers. You ready? If you think you can handle it, here's an image of my three extracted wisdom teeth, freshly pulled from my skull just a few short hours ago. In the words of The Dentist 2's awesome tagline, BRACE YOURSELF!!
Somewhere, Corbin Bernsen is smiling. And if I ever meet him at a convention, he's totally signing one of those bad boys.