MAY 1, 2011
High on the list of movies I never really had much interest in seeing a sequel to has to be The Dentist, a typically mid-90s (read: bland) crazed dentist movie that failed to take fun advantage of the scenario and tried to make some sort of slasher/psychological thriller hybrid instead. But I was willing to give The Dentist 2 a shot, hoping that they’d retain what worked and come up with something a little more fun.
But alas, the sequel is practically a remake at times, hitting a lot of the same beats while offering even LESS carnage. Plus now the novelty factor has worn off, so there’s really not much here to offer anyone who didn’t love the original. It IS more streamlined, with only 1-2 major “hallucination” type scenes, but it’s still overlong and lacking any sort of suspense or even much in terms of black humor, which you’d think would be a given. Say what you will about Dr. Giggles, but at least that movie’s screenwriters had the good sense to keep the body count high (something like 17, as opposed to this movie’s 4, two of which occur in the final 10 minutes), not to mention give its “hero” some sense of warped purpose. Here, I have no idea what Corbin Bernsen’s Dr. Feinstone/Caine was trying to accomplish – he doesn’t even want to be a dentist anymore, only taking the job after the old/lazy town dentist does a poor job on HIS teeth and thus he kills him in retaliation.
You probably noticed that he has two names. This movie borrows a LOT from Stepfather 2 – same mental institution break in the opening scene, same move to an idyllic “perfect” small town, and yes, a new identity for its killer. Note to future franchise wannabe killers – don’t change your name, even if it does sort of make sense. You need an iconic name for the fans to remember, and simply going by ‘The Dentist’ isn’t specific enough. Again: Dr. Giggles! THAT’S something you remember. But it’s not even just “he makes up a new identity” (or takes someone else’s), the movie asks us to believe that he already planned for this sort of thing, and has a bank account, license, etc. with a different name in this town. What is he, Jigsaw? Why would he have planned for this? So it gets a bit confusing, because he just goes to this town where people already know him and call him by his new name that we haven’t heard yet (and it’s “Larry Caine”, which sounds like “Larry King” with one guy’s accent).
Sillier, they bring back his wife, who is trying to track him down. In a somewhat inspired but kind of goofy plot point, she has narrowed down his whereabouts to a group of particular small southwestern towns, because he collected snow globes from wherever he went. So she sends a PI to find him, but this subplot just feels like padding, as the detective isn’t worth caring about, and she can’t even talk, keeping her from being particularly engaging as well. Nor did I quite understand what she was trying to accomplish – revenge, I guess, but when they finally meet up she just makes out with him. Again, it’s just a total waste of time, and just adds to what was already a big problem with this movie – it doesn’t forge enough of its own identity.
I mean, you’re already dealing with a thin premise – the dentist needs to be doing dental type stuff in order to sell the concept, so they got to keep finding reasons for people to come see him. Dr. Giggles got to go around town with his various medical devices, but a dentist just pretty much has his drill – it limits the range and the creativity for the kills. So the only option is to make up for it with an exciting and suspenseful story, but there really isn’t one. He meets a new girl and gets jealous all over again, and that’s about it. His victims are just people trying to uncover the truth behind his identity (another blunder – he’s under suspicion almost instantly after arriving, so there’s no point where you think he might be able to go straight, like Psycho II). And by carrying over the wife, they essentially require you to watch the original movie in order to understand what is going on, and then more or less remake it.
There are some inspired moments, however. I loved that one of the things that set him off was the outdated magazines in the waiting room, and there’s a funny bit where he starts asking his love interest about her potential boyfriend while he’s working on some anonymous woman, who quickly figures out that he’s not too pleased and thus tries to help change the subject or at least calm him down before he gets too upset while sticking drills and such in her mouth. And Clint Howard shows up, so that’s always fun, and visions of an Ice Cream Man vs. The Dentist movie briefly fluttered through my head, which distracted me away from noticing that the entire scene was clearly added in late in production because they noticed that the movie had no action whatsoever in its second act without it.
Also, I hate the dentist and find seeing oral pain on-screen to be one of the few things that legitimately makes me uncomfortable. There’s a bit of business in the early part of the movie about his cap coming loose, and I identified with that – I myself have four caps, and one of them has come out twice (once on a holiday!), and there’s nothing more upsetting in the world than feeling that weird little nub where a tooth should be, just as there’s nothing quite as unsettling as that ice cold cement stuff they need to use in order to get it back in there properly. On that note, I also like the FX for the close-ups – they seemingly built giant mouths to scale and detailed them quite well – much better than the usual approach of just using one of those magnifying glass things to show us what’s going on (or a ridiculous “mouth point of view” shot). And, to be fair, it's a "sort of" slasher movie in the immediate post-Scream world that didn't have any goddamn meta/hip dialogue, so I laud the filmmakers for doing their own thing instead of changing up their MO just to fit in with the new kids (as H20 did).
I also appreciated the widescreen (even anamorphic!) transfer from Lionsgate. Most of their Trimark pickups from the 90s are ugly full-frame transfers from the VHS, but they actually did a digital transfer here. They also tossed in the trailer and some filmographies, which I have no use for (director Brian Yuzna was the executive producer of Ticks! Cool!), but it’s a nice touch for this movie’s fans (which there must be – the IMDb board has TWO “Will there be a Dentist 3?” threads).
Now, when will we get Killer Chiropractor?
What say you?