Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dr. Giggles (1992)

Director: Manny Coto
Notable cast: Larry Drake, Holly Marie Combs, Cliff De Young

Before "Scream" successfully (the term used here is debatable) revived the 80s slasher film for a new generation in 1996, there was another film that desperately tried to do the same thing using very similar tactics. This 1992 film is known as "Dr. Giggles". Blending humor and horror together in some rather awkward ways, "Dr. Giggles" used every damn slasher plot device to try and reignite the genre of film. Although the film certainly has its own style and a strong visual chic from director Coto, it's too cliche and too silly for its own good and eventually the film drowns under its own silly "homage" script.

Years ago the small town of Moorehigh found itself in the grip of fear. A doctor had been dicing up his patients looking for a heart to bring back his dead wife. The town roars up and stones the doctor to death...but his young son disappears. Fast forward to present day (that being 1992) and the evil son, now deemed Dr. Giggles (Drake) for his iconic laugh, is back and ready to give Moorehigh a taste of their own medicine. Can local teen Jennifer (Combs) along with the help of a reluctant boyfriend and new police officer stop this maniacal madman before they lose the heart to do so?

All of the great puns are already used in this film, so this caption is DOA.
There is a very fine line between homage and knock off. More or less, it depends on the taste of the viewer and how they interpret it too. Although I appreciate all of the cliche elements that went into "Dr. Giggles" and its run of the mill slasher script as familiar territory I could sit comfortably in, there was a distinct after taste that the film was simply pulling elements from other successful slasher films without homaging them properly. The little rhyme about the doctor of Moorehigh is obviously stolen in concept from "Nightmare On Elm Street" (as is how the town rises up against the villain), while the son's return home to his town smacks directly of elements snagged from "Halloween" with the dilapidated house. Although as a long time viewer of slashers it was fun to pick out what was stolen from where, but in the end it left a rather sour feeling in how ridiculously unoriginal the film was in its plot progressions and cliche elements.

Cliche slasher heroine on perfect display in "Dr. Giggles".
The film also lacks an ability to navigate its humor/horror ratios. More often than not I was left wondering if the film was meant to be funny. It was funny, but never was I sure if it was intentional or not. The obvious peppering of puns and one liners from Dr. Giggles himself got to be a little old at times (although breaking the fourth wall at the end was a nice cap off) and the sheer ridiculousness of our villain made for some great moments. Yet the film never runs with it outside of that portion. Our heroine and her friends seem far too serious for the film they are in, giving only mediocre acting performances to obviously underwritten characters and rarely succeeding at adding any true horror or drama to the mix. Leaving us to laugh at some of the forced (but unique) death sequences rather than squeal in terror at the impending death of these caricatures.

Tongue in cheek and giggling the whole time.
Only the ripe visual direction and tongue in cheek performance of Dr. Giggles really saves this film from being a total disaster. Coto uses quite the flamboyance for over the top shots and has a Raimi-inspired eye for the fun and it helps the film out immensely. Too bad its script never finds it's balance. It either needed to be darker to match some of the horror sequences it grasps for or needed to go all out with its cartoonish elements and make us laugh in squeamish hilarity. No wonder this film failed to revitalize the slasher genre - its not even that great a slasher. A film only for the die hards.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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