Sunday, January 6, 2008

#28: The Dentist (Brian Yuzna, 1996)

As we slowly exit the holiday season, I think it's important to take time to reflect on our lives, count our blessings, and enjoy a mid-nineties film about a killer dentist starring Corbin Bernsen.

The Dentist may be the most unpleasant horror film I've seen. It's not the creepiest, scariest, most effective, smartest, etc., but it made me feel nauseous and squirmy for almost its entire duration, and that usually doesn't happen. (In a psychology class I took, we were instructed to pair up and take turns staring at each other's faces while we looked at a projected image. What the professors didn't tell us was that the image showed a dead crocodile sliced open, containing human body parts inside. The image was initially hard to visually decipher, and we were unwittingly expected to notice when the first sign of disgust registered on our partner's face. The student I paired up with looked at the image first, and disgust showed on his face after about ten seconds. I went next, and displayed what I thought was minor disgust at the image. When I turned back to my partner, he said, "All you did was laugh.") Heretofore, the only two things that made me squeamish were needles injecting veins and genital mutilation. Now I can add tooth and gum torture to the list of things that make me turn my head away from the screen.

Dentist visits are jam-packed with unpleasantnesses ripe for exploitation by horror filmmakers. High-frequency whining, whirring, and buzzing sounds, needles, lasers, scraping, infection, extraction, inability to talk, fear of swallowing and choking on saliva and blood, decay, rot, sedation, helplessness, stern lectures about flossing, expensive oral surgeries that insurance companies weasel out of paying much of, etc. It's all here in The Dentist, and more (including tongue removal), and if that's your idea of a good time, you are in paradise, my fucked-up friend. I, on the other hand, was a shell of a man afterward, ready for a documentary about fluffy bunnies and a cup of chamomile tea. (I picked the wrong weekend to start my month-long abstinence from beer, goddamn it. This would have been a far easier film to take in a pleasantly numb beer fog.)

Ready for a plot synopsis now? Corbin Bernsen plays a successful Los Angeles dentist who has a severe hangup about cleanliness and the lack thereof. He's also experiencing severe hallucinations, causing him to imagine that all his patients have horrible tooth decay and that his wife is giving blowjobs to the pool cleaner. He goes cuckoo-bananas and starts rearranging people's mouths and generally freaking the fuck out. That's about the gist of it. Additionally, a pre-fame Mark Ruffalo has a small part as the agent of a beauty queen getting dental treatment, and Dawn of the Dead's Ken Foree stars as a police detective. The Dentist was directed by Brian Yuzna, producer of Re-Animator, and co-written by Stuart Gordon, director of Re-Animator, From Beyond, and Castle Freak. Bernsen's character loves opera, incidentally. Goodbye for now.


Anonymous said...

The most scaring movie I have ever seen

Nick Nerja said...

This film is playing on CanalBuzz in Spain this month and I saw it yesterday. As someone who hates the dentist and needles it was a very uncomfortable film to watch. Not scary, just unpleasant, but that's a good thing! Scary and unpleasant like L'Interieur is best, but one out of two aint bad.