Dr. Giggles

Reviewed By Rob Gonsalves
Posted 12/25/06 21:41:07

"Horror movies like this make it hard to be a horror fan."
1 stars (Sucks)

The real star of "Dr. Giggles" is whoever built the surgical tools that the title villain uses.

In his shiny black bag, the not-so-good doctor (Larry Drake) carries the most hideous medical instruments imaginable: a long speculum that enters the nostril and pierces the brain; a pointed thermometer that gets shoved into a victim's mouth and out the back of his head (thank God it's not rectal); huge separators that seem designed to crack open an elephant's ribcage; and the show-stopper, a gleaming gun of some sort that discharges razor-sharp spikes -- ka-chinngg! -- and punches holes through flesh and bone. I enjoyed watching this stuff in action, but I didn't buy it for a minute. To quote the Joker: Where did he get those wonderful toys? The movie doesn't tell us; he just seems to ... have them. (I'm especially curious about how he came by the giant Band-Aid he suffocates someone with.)

That's just one example of plot malpractice in Dr. Giggles, which robotically checks off every slasher-film cliché in the book. Dr. Giggles, you see, suffers from a Childhood Trauma. His mother died of heart failure; his father, a good doctor, couldn't save her and steadily went nuts -- killing people and taking their hearts home to transplant in his wife. Eventually the locals caught up with him and stoned him to death, but not before he cut open his wife, stuck his young son inside her stomach, and ... No, I'd better stop before I make the movie sound interesting. The boy, understandably twisted, grew up to become Dr. Giggles, a maniac who thinks he's continuing his dad's "work." And when he escapes from the asylum and spots a high-school girl (a pre-Charmed Holly Marie Combs) who has heart trouble -- just like dear old Mom! -- he knows he's found the perfect patient.

The script, by Graeme Whifler (with some major revisions by director Manny Coto), is a pathetic body-count contraption -- 101 Varieties of Weird Ways to Die. The usual group of stupid teenagers hang out at a carnival (which has no reason, plotwise, to be in the film, except that the moviemakers had access to it) and wander off to be butchered by Dr. Giggles. The killer must also have a terrific set of skeleton keys in his bag -- he's always waltzing into locked houses to get at his prey. Giggling nervously (hence the name), the doctor keeps himself amused by spouting moronic medical one-liners ("This won't hurt a bit," "Are you feeling any discomfort?"). "Have a heart," he says as he throws a heart at someone (a direct steal from Dreamscape). The movie falls into a deadening, repetitive rhythm very fast, with Brian May's score (which sounds like Danny Elfman Lite) working overtime to make the action seem impressive.

Larry Drake, a hulking, baby-faced character actor who made his name as the gentle Benny on L.A. Law, can also play vicious psychos, as anyone who caught him in Darkman can tell you. As Dr. Giggles, Drake pulls off a neat trick: He convinces you that this monster actually thinks he's doing noble work. When he prepares to operate on the girl with the bad ticker, he really seems to want to heal her, even though he'll probably end up killing her in the process. Drake has also worked up a great giggle for the role; he seems raring to give a classic sick-puppy performance. But the idiotic script won't let him. He just stalks from house to house murdering people until it's his turn to die, and we all know a horror-movie villain can't die just once. No, he keeps popping up with even bigger weapons. Luckily, he gets killed for real before he can reach into his bag and pull out, say, a jackhammer.

It's obvious that Dr. Giggles wants to be a cartoonish, outrageous splatter comedy along the lines of The Re-Animator, which also got some mileage out of gross mad-lab jokes. But in outline it's no different from Friday the 13th and its clones. The numbing familiarity of everything in the film just makes the cartoonish bits look ridiculous.

You could ask, "Well, what'd you expect from a movie called 'Dr. Giggles'?" I don't know -- maybe a little fun?

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