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Film / The Dentist

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You know the drill.

"I am an instrument of perfection and hygiene. The enemy of decay and corruption. A dentist. And I have a lot of work to do."
Dr. Feinstone

The Dentist is a 1996 American horror film directed by Brian Yuzna and written by Dennis Paoli and Stuart Gordon (the team responsible for Re-Animator a decade earlier), inspired by the story of real-life dentist and serial killer Glennon Engleman. It stars Corbin Bernsen, Linda Hoffman, Earl Boen, Ken Foree, and Mark Ruffalo in an early role.

Dr. Alan Feinstone (Bernsen) has everything: a nice house, a beautiful wife, and a popular reputation as the neighborhood dentist. Everything is tidy and clean, just as it should be. But things start to go very wrong when, on the day of his wedding anniversary, Feinstone spots his wife having sex with the poolman. His world shaken to its core, Feinstone begins hallucinating at work, first believing that one of his patients has a mouthful of brown, rotting teeth, then that another is his unfaithful wife. Now he's about to become every dental patient's worst nightmare...

The Dentist was followed by The Dentist 2: Brace Yourself in 1998, also starring Corbin Bernsen as the eponymous doctor.

This film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Ax-Crazy: Feinstone eventually goes crazy from the weight of his obsessive-compulsive.
  • Creepy Cleanliness: Feinstone is a germaphobe and a tightly-wound control freak, referring to anything impure, be it actual dirt or deterioration, or something he considers morally reprehensible, as "filth". The former idea fits his job as a dentist quite well, the latter leads to him snapping.
  • Depraved Dentist: Once Feinstone's Hallucinations start to get worse, he starts seeing his patient's teeth being in horrible condition. And this calls for extreme methods....
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: April Reign is clearly based on Marilyn Monroe.
  • Final Girl: Sarah, called innocent by Feinstone, has a chase throughout the dental office once Feinstone is exposed. It's at this point that she discovers the bodies of his victims.
  • Go-Go Enslavement: Feinstone has Brooke bound to a pool chair in a bikini the morning after he mutilates her.
  • Jawbreaker: Feinstone uses his equipment to force the corrupt IRS man's jaw to open further than it should, breaking it.
  • Job Title: Feinstone is the dentist. According to him, the best one.
  • Nervous Wreck: The nervous patient.
  • Obsessively Organized: Feinstone once again. His obsession with cleanliness and perfection is what drives him into insanity.
  • Slashed Throat: Feinstone kills the poolboy by slicing his throat open with a knife, and continues to slice him up as the guy staggers backwards from the attacks.
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: Feinstone gets his revenge on his wife by binding her to the dentist's chair and mutilating the hell out of her mouth, including cutting off her tongue.
  • The Tooth Hurts: As you might expect from a horror film about a Depraved Dentist, there is quite a lot of this; teeth get pulled out and torn apart with drills.
  • Torture Porn: In a prelude to the gore displayed in films of the noughties, we see plenty of metal-to-mouth mutilation that is sure to make a viewer or two cringe at the thought of going to the dentist.
  • Within Arm's Reach: Averted in a scene directly inspired by a famous scene in Dial M for Murder. Alan the insane dentist is strangling Jessica with pantyhose. She reaches out for a pair of scissors on the tray, to stab him with—but they are just out of reach, and she dies.

The sequel has examples of:

  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Feinstone pretty much decimates poor Bev after he finds out she knows too much. He first uses a drill to expose the nerve of her tooth and stabs into the nerve with a plaque-scraping hook. Then he pulls out two of her teeth, accidentally breaking one, and uses a drill on others.
  • Gollum Made Me Do It: Feinstone blames his "evil dentist" personality for his numerous tortures and murders.
  • Hope Spot: Robbie shows up right in the middle of Feinstone torturing Bev. He hears her scream for help and goes to help her, but Feinstone kills him before he can do anything and continues with Bev.
  • Hypocrite: Despite being a murderer and torturer of numerous people, Feinstone blames the hick dentist Burns for making dentists "the boogeymen of the medicine world."
  • Large Ham: Bernsen really hams it up during his character's crazy moments this time around, even in comparison with the previous movie.
  • Nail 'Em: A nail gun (which typically for cinema, acts like an actual gun) is present in Feinstone's practice due to the repairs being done in the upstairs. Jamie uses it to shoot a few nails into Feinstone's face in the climax, but it fails to kill him.
  • Name of Cain: When relocating to Paradise, Missouri, Feinstone assumes the name Lawrence Caine.
  • Shaped Like Itself: "Pulling teeth is like, well...pulling teeth."
  • Shower of Angst: After killing a patient to hide his secret, Feinstone washes the blood off from himself while berating himself.
  • The Speechless: Since she's missing half of her tongue, Brooke doesn't speak.
  • Surprise Party: The townsfolk of Paradise decide to hold a surprise party for their new dentist. Feinstone, beaten and battered from fighting Brooke and Jamie moments earlier, shuffles into a dark room. The lights go on, people yell "surprise!", but the festivities quickly end when they see the condition that he is in.
  • Tongue Trauma: Brooke is back, sans her tongue. And she wants to repay the favour to her husband with scissors.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Years spent in the mental hospital seems to have mellowed Feinstone out and driven him to regret his crimes from the first movie, and spends most of the movie trying to keep his sanity in check.