Horror review: Dr. Giggles

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, OCT. 29, 1992

By Steve Newton

Out of Africa and Driving Miss Daisy are fine films, I’m sure, but every once in a while that old dark side of the mind requires a dose of the truly sick and twisted to make one appreciate the finer things in life. And the new horror/comedy Dr. Giggles is about as sick and twisted as commercial Hollywood movies get.

Directed with considerable flair by newcomer Manny Coto (TV’s Tales from the Crypt and Monsters) and produced by the same guy behind last year’s surprisingly clever chuckle-fest The People Under the Stairs, Dr. Giggles stars Larry Drake (L.A. Law’s Benny Stulwicz) as Dr. Evan Rendell, a psychiatric patient known as “Dr. Giggles” who escapes from a mental institution and returns to his home town to practise his own brand of bad medicine.

It seems that as a child, Rendell helped his insane MD father transplant hearts from various townsfolk in a last-ditch attempt to save his ailing mother. But the vital organs came from people who weren’t donors, who weren’t dead, and who weren’t even anæsthetized. Yikes!

When the grown-up Dr. Giggles gets back to the picturesque small town of Moorehigh to pick up where his murderous dad left off years back—and mete out revenge for his pop’s death at the hands of the enraged townspeople—he comes across pretty teenager Jennifer Campbell (Holly Marie Combs of the tube’s Picket Fences), whose enjoyment of summer vacation is being hampered by the diagnosis of a defective heart valve that may require surgery.

Naturally, Dr. G. wants to give her the heart she needs his own way, and the bulk of the film sees him giddily stalking the young lass, making short work of those who stand in his way—and even those who don’t.

While not inherently different from most teen-oriented stalker flicks, Dr. Giggles gets the mutilated thumbs-up because of Drake’s deranged, over-the-top performance, which should win him a place in the Sick and Twisted Hall of Fame. The actor with the largest head in Hollywood strikes quite the frightening figure with his white lab coat and black doctor’s bag. And he keeps the laughs rolling with deadpan medical one-liners like “Are you feeling any discomfort?” (after his prize victim takes a nasty roll down a hill) and “At least your reflexes are good” (after maiming a real doctor with one of those hammer-type, knee-tapping dealies).

Taking a cue from Dead Ringers, Dr. Giggles makes the most of human aversion to oversized and unrecognizable medical instruments, as well as our general dislike of the doc’s poking and probing. Whether employing a blood-pressure tester around one victim’s neck or checking another unfortunate’s temperature with a sharpened thermostat, Rendell’s bloody non-remedies are meticulously portrayed by Los Angeles’ K.N.B. Effects Group, the same folks who created the painfully vivid sledgehammer-meets-foot sequence in Misery.

f you favour that kind of demented movie-making, Dr. Giggles is for you; if not, Terms of Endearment is as close as your nearest video store.

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