Wednesday, October 3, 2007

i'm not giggling...


For the second of my 31 days of Halloween I decided to dip back into the Twisted Terror box set again and check out "Dr. Giggles." I remember seeing this 1992 film when it first came out on video and not really thinking much of it. Fifteen years later, not much has changed. At the time, I remember being somewhat excited to see it because it starred Holly Marie Combs, who had appeared in Hal Hartley's "Simple Men," and who I thought was really cute. There also weren't that many straight up horror movies coming out in the early 1990s, so the prospect of a new slasher film at the time was kind of exciting. Unfortunately, "Dr. Giggles" just doesn't have very much going on. It's bland and a bit sterile and very formulaic, cut from the basic mold of films like "Nightmare on Elm Street," in which a group of generic teens in stalked by a novelty killer, who cracks a little wise before doing them in. In this case the killer is the titular Giggles, who is well played by Larry Drake (from "Darkman" and "L.A. Law"), even if he doesn't have all that much to do. Actually, the cast is one of the few bright spots in this film. Aside from Combs (who went on to star on the TV show "Charmed") and Drake, there's Cliff De Young from "The Hunger" and "Shock Treatment" as Combs' dad, Michelle Johnson (from "Blame it on Rio") as De Young's girlfriend, the late Glenn Quinn (from the TV shows "Roseanne" and "Angel") as Combs' boyfriend and Doug E. Doug as one of combs' friend. Falling in line with the cliche that the black guy always dies first in movies like this, African-American Doug (E. Doug) is killed off pretty quickly, which is kind of a shame, because I've always thought he was a great, underutilized comedic actor. At the time of "Dr. Giggles", I was a fan of his from "Hangin' with the Homeboys" (a great film despite the title) and the short-lived sitcom "Where I Live." In the time since, he did a stint on the 1990s Bill Cosby sitcom, appeared in a few films like "Cool Runnings" and "Eight Legged Freaks, " and directed a good low-budget indie comedy called "Citizen James." Another underrated character actress, Nancy Fish ("The Exorcist 3"), who specializes in playing crotchety old broads, also has a small role in "Dr. Giggles."

To be fair, "Dr. Giggles" is no worse than most of the horror films made in the past 15 years. It does have a few sublimely grisly moments, including one fairly effective scene in which Dr. Giggles, as a child, emerges blood-covered from the torso of his mother's corpse, while a hapless doctor looks in terror. But the rest of the movie is just kind of pointless and meandering, there are several false endings which make it feel overlong even at 98 minutes. It's no surprise that it would take several more years and the release of "Scream" in 1996 to really revive the horror genre, which maybe even wasn't such a great thing to have happen, since if you look at all the post-"Scream" horror movies that have come out in the past 10 years, most of them are pretty lame. I mean, "Scream" wasn't even that great a movie but next to "Dr. Giggles" you can appreciate why it was such a success. Anyway, the long and short of it is that "Dr. Giggles" isn't much of a movie. Hopefully tonight's flick will be a bit better...

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