The Dentist (1996)

DECEMBER 3, 2008


I almost miss the mid 90s horror drought, because it meant that smaller DTV movies would still get decent coverage in Fangoria. Nowadays, there’s no way that something like The Dentist would get more than maybe a line or two in that thing near the beginning of every issue that announces movies that are being made (most of which never are). But in the summer of 1996, when horror was so slow that a non-horror movie like Escape from LA would get like three articles, Brian Yuzna’s killer dentist movie was given a 6 page article. The article got me excited to see the movie, so why it took me 12 years to watch it beyond me. I think 1996 is when I got a Playstation, so that might have something to do with it.

Sadly, I can only assume the movie hasn’t aged well. It's not that there's a lot of outdated music and clothing styles, but I never felt like I was watching anything but a DTV horror movie from 1996. It’s got a certain charm and all, but I was still underwhelmed. And that is surprising, because if there’s one thing that I can’t stand to watch it’s teeth being removed, but I had little trouble with this movie.

Part of the problem, I think, is that the movie is too damn overcrowded. There’s an IRS guy after him, some cops, his wife, the pool man, a neighbor whose dog he killed, an annoying girl who wants her braces out, an actress and her manager, 3 or 4 coworkers... the movie could definitely benefit from a trimmed script. It’s not like he kills everyone anyway (the body count is like 5, tops), and having so many distractions diffuses a lot of the humor, and also makes the movie feel a bit repetitive.

Also, it’s jarringly structured in a way that has him get revenge on his wife around the halfway point. It should have come down to a faceoff between him and her, but instead, Stuart Gordon and Dennis Paoli’s script has him go to a dental school and threaten people we’ve never seen.

Keeping it together, however, is Corbin Bernsen as the title character. Luckily, a lot of the humor doesn’t come from bad puns, a la Dr Giggles (I guess LA Law is the go-to show for comedic horror movies based on medical professions. Someone get Harry Hamlin in Killer Chiropractor, pronto), but instead Bernsen’s obsessive compulsive behavior and the character’s total devotion to his job. Unlike Giggles, he’s not out to kill everyone, and still cares about his patient’s good hygiene. It gives the movie a slightly unnerving feeling that helped overcome some of its lesser aspects.

It’s also a good movie to watch for “oh wow, he’s in this?” watching. Ken Foree plays one of the cops, and you must remember that before Rob Zombie came along, Ken didn’t appear in every 3rd direct to video horror movie. Back then, his appearance actually carried the weight it theoretically does nowadays. But most surprising is a young Mark Ruffalo as the actress’ manager. He’s an interesting actor, and I’m surprised that it was another four or five years after this that he began getting meaty roles in Hollywood films (I assumed he hadn’t even began acting for a living until 2000 or so). I should note that oddly enough, he’s actually in the news today (his brother got shot yesterday and is in critical condition. I hope the lad is OK), and I noticed that his Yahoo resumé is rather incorrect since it says he “most recently” appeared in 13 Going on 30, which came out like 4 years ago and he’s been in like 6 movies since (including others mentioned in the article).

I should also note that The Dentist is not mentioned in the article at all.

What say you?


  1. My friends and I rented this movie for our annual Halloween Movie Crap-a-thon in 2000. It wasn't terrifying, but the revenge the Dentist got on his wife definitely warped our 16-yr old minds a little. Deadtimes Stories also shocked us that year.

  2. Oh my God...

    Deadtime Stories! HA HA HA!!!

    That movie was supposed to be a dude telling stories to a young lad, but the sun is shining like it's mid day.

    Why is he putting the kid to bed at 2:30 PM? I have to watch that one again..


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