Graphic Horror: Dr. Giggles
Dr. Giggles 1992
It’s tough for me to decide which of the two recent films I watched are better: Virus or Dr. Giggles. I think I would give the edge to Virus, only slightly due to some of the innovative special effects. Dr. Giggles is very much just a standard psychopath killer horror movie overloaded with as many doctor puns as they could fit in. The most entertaining part of the film was picking out actors that I recognized from their later work, like Larry Drake who went on to play Durant in Darkman, Holly Marie Combs who played the sister no one remembers from Charmed, Doug E. Doug from Cool Runnings, and Glenn Quinn from Angel. It’s filled with plenty of horror tropes, some weird doctor-like contraptions, and not really much else in the way of plot or scares. It was produced in part by Dark Horse Entertainment and also had a tie-in two part comic book that came out right around the same time as the film.
The film starts out quickly enough with some pretty poor early 90’s CG of the inner workings of a person’s circulatory system before showing off Dr. Giggles himself in the middle of “surgery” in the middle of an operating theater. It’s very quickly revealed via dialogue from a random actual doctor that he is in an insane asylum, is very intelligent, and extremely psychotic. Cut to the extremely 90’s dressed “teenagers” and they’re very cliche talk about some random party and teenage lingo. Meanwhile Dr. Giggles comes back to his hometown and breaks into what we find out is his father’s old house slash office which is the local “haunted” house. He grabs some of the implements and goes around town, spouting doctor quips as he begins killing people.
Aside from the doctor motif, the film covers almost every single horror movie trope out there. Aside from the people at the asylum in the cold open as it were, it’s the black couple that die first out of the teenagers. Holly Marie Combs plays the final girl who is the only one seemingly above all of the teenage shenanigans, partly due to her heart condition which means that she’s not supposed to drink alcohol. There’s also the police force which completely ignores the warnings about the killer, accusing the kids of yanking their chains, aside from the one single rookie that does believe them and comes to help. There’s also more than one moment where you think Dr. Giggles is finally dead, but it turns out he really isn’t.
One aspect of the film that could have been an interesting through line is the fact that Dr. Giggles’s mother died from a weak heart when he was young. And when he learns of the Final Girl’s heart condition he becomes obsessed with giving her a replacement heart just like his father did many years earlier. It’s never entirely clear if he is actually trying to perform a successful operation on her rather than the much more violent acts of surgery that he performs on the other townspeople. It would have almost made him a more sympathetic character if he had been allowed to give her the heart transplant, and when that was finished he would then try to do something more horrific before he gets stopped.
There’s also the occasional flashbacks to his childhood, via his own memories as well as a moment where one of the police officers recounts the tale along with the local children’s rhyme to the rookie cop. The rhyme is ok, but it’s not anything nearly as memorable as Nightmare on Elm Street’s “One, two, Freddie’s coming for you…”. There is a single truly disturbing moment during that flashback, when Dr. Giggles’s father finally gets captured, there is no sign of the son. But that police officer is the only one on duty and discovers that the son was sewn into the corpse of his own mother as he cuts his way out from the inside. While it doesn’t make any logical sense that a child would be able to fit, much less survive several hours sewn inside a corpse, the visuals to pull off this moment are incredibly gruesome and effective. If only the rest of the film could have lived up to that single moment.
There’s nothing spectacularly bad about this film aside from the dozens of groan inducing doctor quotes, like “if you think that’s bad, wait ’till you get my bill”. The one moment that was rather surprisingly funny is when he goes after the horny teenage couple. After the boy spends a ridiculous amount of time doing slapstick comedy trying to get a condom out of the toilet, he comes back to bed expecting his girlfriend, and instead finds Dr. Giggles under the covers who says “I hope you brought protection”. The best aspect of Larry Drake’s performance is the titular giggle which is surprisingly effective, and unfortunately underutilized. There just wasn’t enough to grasp onto in this film with lackluster characters, and a villain whose gag wears thin after the second kill. Not to mention how nearly every scene was backlit so brightly that it looked like the aliens were coming any minute. Really a poor entry in Dark Horse’s filmography. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.