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The Dentist 2
(1998)
 

Director: Brian Yuzna                   
Cast:
Corbin Bernsen, Jillian McWhirter, Susanne Wright


When The Dentist was first released, I felt it was one of the more effective horror movies of that period. It had an excellent performance by L.A. Law's Bernsen, playing the title figure, a streak of dark humor running underneath it, plus plenty of gory and gross moments. But the moment in that movie had nothing bloody in it; that certain scene (and those who have seen the movie will know what I'm talking about) managed, without showing a drop of blood, to show the absolutely most vile, sickening, and nauseating scene ever made in the history of motion pictures. That...scene...was so incredibly repulsive, that I admit that I had to momentarily stop watching the videotape - that had never happened to me before, and I haven't had the "pleasure" of doing it since. Though I've never seen that particular...scene...brought up in any articles I subsequently read of the movie, it's obvious the makers of the movie (most of whom return for this sequel) must have gotten an idea as to how that...scene...churned the stomachs of thousands of viewers. That's because in the opening few minutes of The Dentist 2, there is a replication of that particular...scene..., though only this time they make it even grosser than the last time. And then later in the movie, they replicate the scene not once, but twice more!

It's obvious that the makers of this movie cared about their audience so much, that they went above and beyond the call of duty. That attitude helps to push The Dentist 2 past some script problems and into one heck of an entertaining movie. Is is better than the original movie? No, and neither is it equally as good. However, it's still full of a lot of merit, especially when you consider how bad sequels usually are. Whatever you thought of the original movie, lower your rating by one or two notches. So if you loved the original The Dentist, you'll certainly find enough dental mayhem and education here to savor. The sequel starts off some time after the events of the first movie, with Dr. Feinstone (Bernsen) in an insane asylum. Early in the movie, he manages to escape, then find his way from L.A. to the small town of Paradise, Missouri. Retrieving some hidden cash and false identity papers, he plans on living a quiet life. (Yes, this plot does sound in many ways similar to the movie Stepfather 2, doesn't it?) But circumstances beyond his control (in more ways than one) find him assuming the role of the town's dentist. He struggles to stay sane, but the call of the dentist's drill keeps beckoning him.

Strange as it may seem, in some aspects The Dentist 2 is a more light-hearted movie than the original. Bernsen (who was also an associate producer) obviously relishes his role, putting an amusing spin on terms like "moral decay" when speaking to unsuspecting townspeople, and in several monologues when alone. However, on occasions when he loses his sanity, Bernsen goes full blast. He screams, growls, swears, makes threats, and that's just for starters. And he puts an incredible amount of energy in these scenes. But Bernsen always has a twinkle or a wink in his eye as his character runs amuck. No, you won't be frightened of his character at any time - he always makes sure that we in the audience will see it's a big joke. I know that some people might be disappointed by this performance, call it silly or outright dumb. Maybe it is. It certainly doesn't seem to be the same Dr. Feinstone character from the first movie, where his insane fury was more realistic. But you gotta admit that Bernsen's chewing of the scenery is unforgettable, and so outrageous that it does generate a lot of laughs. Yuzna seems to have backed away and let Bernsen do his thing, and overall I'm glad he did. Yuzna himself generates additional amusement from the movie by his use of bizarre yet inventive camera angles, P.O.V. shots, and general teasing direction. There are some scenes where we know what will happen, yet he doesn't snappily take it through. He directs these scenes to progress very slowly, so the tension builds more and more until we are both laughing and preparing to cringe. He also uses the same technique in scenes where we know something will happen, but we don't know exactly what - these scenes are even better, because we are riveted to the scene, wondering what will happen.

We do know what's going to happen in the end, though. But that's okay, for the journey to the destination can be fun, and sometimes it's fun anticipating how the ending will be exactly like. However, though the movie knows how more or less it will (and should) end, it doesn't know how to get there. Instead of one central story, like the first movie, the bulk of the movie is actually made up of several subplots. These sequences not only don't really progress the story at all, but they are padded past the point of being ridiculous. The worst subplot concerns someone in L.A. searching for Dr. Feinstone; most of this subplot is concerned with the search, and the remainder leads that character to a conclusion that, with a rewrite of one page of the script, would not have the person needed in the movie in the first place! Another subplot, concerning the friendship Dr. Feinstone strikes with someone in town, is severely damaged by the person somehow completely failing to see the obvious nervous tics and other obvious signs of insanity.

Despite the slow progress of the multiple stories, I was seldom bored by what I was seeing. There's usually some funny dialogue in each scene, an amusing detail (look at the magazines in the local dentist's office,) and a variety of kooky townspeople. What about the dentistry, I'm hearing from impatient bloodthirsty readers. If you are talking about the frequency of the dentistry scenes, you'll probably be disappointed. There's a good, very long chunk of the film where you don't see any psycho dental work. The movie also doesn't seem certain on both how to incorporate psycho dentistry in this movie, and when to add it. In desperation, the movie throws in a cameo by Ron Howard's brother (Clint Howard) at one point for a gratuitous dental scene that has no bearing on what happens afterwards. As for the effectiveness of the dental scenes, this is where the movie shines, more brightly than after a cleaning. Not only is the gore level increased from the first movie, it is also effectively directed. In some scenes it happens unexpectedly, taking the viewer by surprise. Also, it is directed for maximum impact. There is one scene in the last third of the movie where the pain and revulsion generated goes on and on, and seems like it will never quit. Let me tell you, it took a strong stomach and much fortitude to get through that scene.

I won't reveal it, but the film also boasts one of the most memorable endings I can think of. It's loud, perverse, demented, tasteless, and incredibly funny. (In fact, I am still chuckling about that ending while I'm writing this.) Best of all, even without this ending, The Dentist 2 would still have received my endorsement. Sure, it's not for everyone, but with a title like that, it's clearly not intended for the crowd that rents movies made by Fellini, Cassavetes, or Renoir. And it's not a rental to pick up at any time - the times to rent it are similar to the times where you order out for pizza or Chinese food. The movie is kind of like junk food, but we all feel a little lazy at times and in the mood for junk, right? Well, when you're tired of lobster and steak, flop out on the couch and indulge in this cinematic junk food. Be sure to brush your teeth very well afterwards.

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See also: Slaughterhouse, Evil Of Dracula, Daddy's Girl

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