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Oral Fixation

Lifesize Entertainment // Unrated // October 13, 2009
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted October 23, 2009 | E-mail the Author
The Film:

One could come to the conclusion that Oral Fixation's Rachel Marks (Emily Parker), a mentally disturbed girl with an obsession for her married dentist, is a masochist. She grabs sharp objects and jabs at her teeth to get in his chair, slices her feet with a butcher's knife when talking to him on the phone, and, well, keeps going to the dentist over and over again without pain suppressants just to spend time with him. Sadly, the experience in tap-footing through Oral Fixation is also very akin to masochism, as watching this promising concept sink into bland, overplayed performances and shaky concentration between groan-worthy drama and grotesque tones can be painful to watch -- like pulling teeth.

Jake Cashill's stab at a Fatal Attraction style of picture zeroes in on Rachel's scheming to crowbar her dentist, Paul (Kerry Aissa), from his family -- a wife (Aidan Sullivan) and child -- and into her perverse clutches. He's all she thinks about morning, noon, and night, itching to find a reason to go back and see him on a routine basis. This is all much to the aggravation of everyone around Paul, including his wife's sister, his assistant, and, of course, his wife. After a world of aggravation in his household regarding an inappropriate call from Rachel, Paul asks her to go in for yet another visit for an emergency procedure -- only this last visit goes very, very wrong, and Rachel puts her wicked little plan into action.

Oral Fixation, clearly a pennies-to-the-pound slow-burner, would have to counterbalance initial disbelief with well-pitched suspense and snappy pacing to piece together a graspable tone, something it simply fails to do. It lingers far too long on personal conversations between Paul and his wife, dragged along by stiff, overstated performances from all involved. At one point, there are so many bland interchanges between the characters that the film's tone grows immensely grating to the nerves. There's nothing natural or particularly human about their interaction, something that'd be key in making this low-budget chiller successful -- a sense of earnest connection with us. It's clear that varying levels of raw talent stir in all three of the leads, especially in the bubbly yet piercing Emily Parker, but it doesn't come out flatteringly here.

Everything that happens afterward in Oral Fixation isn't an exercise in suspenseful horror, but a long stream of follies from Paul and his wife that could easily be brandished as some of the most obtuse, non-sensible decisions made by humans imaginable. Their choices create fearful situation after fearful situation, sure, but in this position they almost feel like self-imposed troubles than happenstance, like they're begging for everything coming to them. It happens very early on, within the first ten minutes or so, as Paul caves in for one last appointment with his stalker-like, obsessive patient. At that point, a giant red flag would've been raised in just about every rational mind, which quickly generates a wealth of skepticism about the realism behind the flick. Yet, the circumstances just keep rolling along. Instead of finding the terror within countless last-second saves -- phone line being cut at the last second, people walk away from a phone at the last second, and others -- they're simply not believable.

Thoughts also lean towards the notion that Jake Cashill's film might go down a visceral path, maybe like Saw or Audition. Promotional artwork might make it look like a gruesome take on dentistry (like a flip on Dr. Giggles with a plaque vacuum instead of a scalpel), yet you'll be left waiting long after the final credits roll for the punchy thrills if that's what's rattling around in your noggin'. A few splashes of gore-like displays ink into the picture for blood buffs, like self-gouging in the mouth and cutting up of a foot, yet they're wrapped around Rachel's very bizarrely cheeky turn as a villain. Her creepy little plan to ensnare Paul never seems real, or believable, and especially not fearsome.

The DVD:

Video and Audio:

Clearly shot with high-definition cameras, Oral Fixation would obviously look rather strong in its 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. Colors are robust and detail looks striking, while the entire image looks fresh from the camera much like many recent low-budget projects. The entire film goes for a largely "sterile" feel similar to the dentist office, which keeps the image very squeaky clean and crisp.

Audio sounds fine in Dolby 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo, solely focusing on dialogue and music. It has a few opportunities to show off a few sound effects -- the clacking of teeth, various dental instrument effects, etc -- and they sound decently placed in the atmosphere. Verbal clarity wavers depending on the recording source, but it's mostly clean and discernible.

Special Features:

Commentary with Director Cashill and Cast/Crew:
We've got a low-key commentary here that covers the film-making basis and adds humorous anecdotes throughout. They discuss the key house for the film (a beautiful home slated for demolition), simulating the sex and hiding microphones, and some plot points (read: holes) that needed ironing out.

Also available are an in-depth Behind-the-Scenes slate of material (actually an after-the-fact piece, since it was shot following the film's completion) that discussing shooting and locations while at specific points, and a Photo Gallery.

Final Thoughts:

Oral Fixation, a excruciatingly low-budget suspense, mishandles an intriguing concept by drawing out the pace and creating a non-realistic environment. It adds way too many last-minute twists and shrilling conversations to really emphasize the cerebral potential behind this spin on Fatal Attraction. Rachel's twisted plotting to ensnare her infatuation ends up being stale and, moreover, sans any tension or suspense in its rhythm. It's an admirable effort with decent prospects to its story, yet its execution here is one best Skipped.

Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
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