Watch out, Dr. Giggles. The dentist is in! Yes, it’s another iconic killer from the 1990s “root for the baddie” slasher genre. And he got in right under the wire, because he arrived the same year Scream made the killer the enemy again! Watching The Dentist films as a double feature nearly two decades after their original release, I’ve concluded that the sequel blows the first one away! How often does that happen?
THE DENTIST (1996)
Corbin Bernsen, fresh off of L.A. Law, is a handsome successful dentist, who clearly had a screw that just needed one final counterclockwise twist to come loose. And that comes when he sees his wife blowing the sleazy hot pool boy (Michael Stadvec, who also appear in the two sequels to Sometimes They Come Back…as two different characters).
Corbin loses it almost immediately, first daydreaming about killing his wife and pool boy and then actually killing a dog, which brings horror icon Ken Foree of the original Dawn of the Dead on the scene as a detective.
Heading to work, Corbin’s erratic behavior gets worse, and naturally, crazy shit starts to happen as we meet the office workers and the patients in the waiting room—including Mark Ruffalo! While kills abound at the office, there are surprisingly few cringe-inducing dental torture scenes. Corbin’s wife gets it the worst. EEK! But hey, poolside BJs are smoother without teeth.
The movie also isn’t as campy as it could be, so following the killer kind of leaves you unsure of how to feel. You don’t get to know the other characters enough to like them, yet the doctor isn’t really fun or funny to be around. He’s just crazy. However, we do get a final girl—a teen waiting to get her braces off. Things suddenly and welcomingly step into familiar slasher territory, complete with a chase and body reveals.
Unfortunately, it then takes a weird and jarring turn (typical 90s crap move), thrusting us into a school where the doctor teaches dentistry on the side, apparently. And there’s an opera singer thrown in for good measure. Actually, bad measure. But all that matters is that Corbin ends up in a loony bin so that….
THE DENTIST 2 (1998)
…he can escape for part 2! The Dentist 2 pretty much goes The Stepfather franchise route. Corbin takes on a new identity and starts a new life in a small town.
He meets a new chick, played by Jillian McWhirter of horror films After Midnight and Strangeland. He’s jealous of her platonic friendship with a hot handyman. And naturally, he takes care of the town’s dentist so he can step in and take over. Little does he know that several people are on to him—including his wife from the first film!
The sequel is more substantial and better structured than the first. The characters are actually developed and Corbin totally amps it up. He’s fantastically and frightfully insane and avoids the campy cheesy shtick. The only real issue as Corbin romances—and deals with his jealousy over—his new lady friend is that the film starts to run a little long. Clint Howard comes knocking for some dental work to give us a kill break, and it’s nice to see him playing a victim in a horror movie instead of a freak, but the scene is totally tame.
But don’t worry, because Dentist phobes beware! Although there’s only one dental torture scene in the sequel, it is hardcore and goes on forever. It seriously gets right into the nerves in your gums and is hard to watch because the victim goes through hell.
However, nothing can top the final sequence. The chase and body reveal here is super intense, with a little surprise in store for the dentist. And Jillian McWhirter rules as a final girl. She should have done more horror.
Plus, Corbin’s final scene at last allows him to get campy, and it’s a perfect setup for a third film. Sucks that it never happened. It should. Come on, Corbin!