Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dr. Giggles

Directed by Manny Coto.
1992. Rated R, 95 minutes.
Larry Drake
Holly Marie Combs
Cliff De Young
Glenn Quinn
Keith Diamond
Richard Bradford
Michelle Johnson
Doug E. Doug
Deborah Tucker

Evan Rendell, Jr. (Drake) doesn’t just escape from the mental institution, he leaves a pile of dead and mutilated bodies in his wake. He fancies himself a physician and the nuthouse has been keeping him from the patients he so desperately wants to see. They don’t want to see him, but that’s beside the point. After so many years away, the doctor is in.

‘In’ means he’s made it back to his hometown of Moorehigh to settle the score with the good citizens who joined forces and killed his dad, naturally named Evan Sr., who was actually a real doctor. Unfortunately, dad snapped when his wife came down with severe heart problems. To find her a new one, he started taking the hearts out of patients who not only weren’t donors, they weren’t even dead yet. Judging by the town folks’ reaction, this practice was highly frowned upon. Junior trying to kill everyone in Moorehigh ensues.

Not only is the story typical slasher fare, it absolutely rips off both Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street (this includes having the local children sing a disturbing song about the doc). Dr. Giggles simply combines the plots of those movies and repurposes them to fit its villain. This was particularly problematic in 1992 since both movies were fresh in our collective mind as the brilliant originals of still-going franchises. Dr. Giggles neatly sidesteps this short-coming with a heaping dollop of morbid humor.

To call it a twisted comedy doesn’t quite do it justice. In fact, Dr. Giggles uses it’s jaded funny bone to do the impossible. It takes a string of doctor-speak clich├ęs, uses them as blatantly corny one-liners and it’s somehow hilarious. For instance, take the scene in which he bludgeons someone to death. After they go flying across the room, he quips “Average reflexes.” Reading it here, you’re probably rolling your eyes at how bad that is. When you see it, you’ll be cracking up. The killer is (ha, I’m punny) Larry Drake delivers each line with a perfectly straight face, not even a hint of knowing how silly the words are coming from his mouth. At other times, his warped giggle causes our own uneasy chuckles. He’s simultaneously menacing and ridiculous, no easy feat.

Dr. Giggles is an underappreciated gem of a slasher flick that anyone not a fan of the genre might immediately dismiss. The rest of us won’t be able to contain our laughter even as bodies are sliced open. Speaking of bodies being sliced open, I haven’t even mentioned the morgue scene. That alone makes this worthy of a portion of the time you’ve allotted for watching DTMs (dead teenager movies), if you’re into that sort of thing.

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