October 29, 2011

Horror-A-Day: Dr. Giggles

Of all the holidays, I have to say that Halloween has the best. For one thing, there are a ton of them. Literally. Another reason is that the horror movie can play well all year long, just try watching The Santa Clause in July. It doesn't work. In any case, the horror movie covers a lot of ground, and I feel I have covered a few different areas over the past month. During my full weekend marathon I have decided to revisit a film from the questionable era of the 1990s. What a strange time for horror that was. I do not have the full knowledge to explain it, but I do know it was not the best of times.

The 1990s saw the slasher seriously slowing down and horror in general somewhat losing its place. It would not begin to find its way again until Scream in 1996 (and that opened up a whole new bag of worms, but that is another story). The example we have at hand is from 1992 and it is a curiosity called Dr. Giggles. It is not a terribly original film. It seems more content to borrow its story elements from other horror films, mainly Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street. It looks like most of the time went into our killers affectations.

As the movie opens we see a doctor performing an pen heart procedure in one of those studio operating rooms with gallery viewing. The patient dies and he proceeds to cut away, giggling maniacally as his face is sprayed with blood. It turns out the doctor is the title character, played by Larry Drake, and it is not a hospital but a mental institution. The doctor promptly breaks out and heads back to his home town.

Back home we learn the doctor's story, about his father, a murderous surgeon who was killed by the townsfolk and the nursery rhyme they use to scare kids away from the doc's abandoned home. This leads to the introductions of a few teens. Your typical good girl, rebel guy, bad girls, the usual cross section we get in these movies. We also learn our good girl, Jennifer (Holly Marie Combs) has a heart condition, wonder if that will come into play later?

Our good Dr. Rendell (Drake) is the grown son of the murdered doctor and he is back to get revenge for his father's murder. Jennifer also catches his eye and he wants to "help" her too. We get lots of screaming kids, clueless adults, and inventive kills as you would expect.

The thing about Dr. Giggles is that it is a moderately fun movie for the sort, but it feels a bit off. An oddity that feels out of place as people searched for the next wisecracking iconic horror killer. This one is off base, but not so far as to be unwatchable. I always felt like this was one of those films that people tend to avoid and make fun of just to make fun of it. Sure, it is derivative but it has good kills, a fun killer, and a likable heroine. Not to mention one seriously out there scene about how the dead doctor managed to save his son. Yikes.

Larry Drake owns this movie. He is crazy, moderately sympathetic, charismatic, and rather creepy as Dr. Giggles. His crazy giggles whenever he gets excited, scared, nervous are unnerving. On the other end Holly Marie Combs is saddled with some poor dialog, but she is effective as our heroine, she is believable and it is easy to root for her.

The movie was written and directed by Manny Coto who does a good job of getting us into the action and never letting the pace get boring. He has gone on to do some nice work on television, having worked on the likes of Odyssey 5, Star Trek: Enterprise (during its great third season), 24, and Dexter.

Like slashers? Like a high dose of camp? Check out Dr. Giggles. It is not great, but it is not as nearly as bad as you may have been led to believe. It has pretty much all the right elements to make a worthy slasher feature.

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