The horror comedy can be quite a difficult one to pull off, the comedy should come naturally, and the horror aspect has to work in the same tone. Successful horror comedies like Re-Animator (1985) and Braindead aka Dead Alive (1992) blend the two genres with ease and make for compelling yet hilarious viewing. Coming out the same year as Braindead was Dr. Giggles (1992), another horror comedy but one that did not work quite as well. The set up and main character are unique, however the execution perhaps did not suit the film.
The premise here is about a man called Evan Rendell aka Dr. Giggles (Larry Drake), who escapes a mental institution under the belief he is a Doctor and still has work to do. Years earlier when Evan was a boy his father was killed for horror crimes stemming back to a need to save his mother. Evan wanting to do his father proud targets the town for revenge, and he plots to perform the surgery his father was stopped from doing with town teenager Jennifer (Holly Marie Combs).
The plot here is a silly one, but it is interesting as Evan is a very different antagonist than the usual. Being under the delusion he is a Doctor adds an extra threat, because he has a lot of nasty tools along for the ride. He does deliver the classic one-liners, the issue being they are either too lame to really get a laugh or do not quite work with the scene. The humour plays more as unintentional rather than being intentional, it leaves us with a very mixed bag and falls flat more often than it should. The teenage subplot does not add anything we haven’t seen before, and the film does suffer because Evan is the character who the audience finds interesting not so much Jennifer.
The main reason this film is appealing and perhaps even still remembered is the performance by Larry Drake as Evan. It is obvious he had the time of his life playing this character, and for the most part he does a solid job. The script and dialogue let him down at points, but to his credit he made it work. The titular giggle is also a very fun highlight and at times did come off as menacing. Holly Marie Combs pre-Charmed (1998 – 2006) was fine as Jennifer, a typical teenager except she has heart problems. This makes her a target for Evan, and while the chemistry was not quite as strong as it could be Drake and Combs pulled up a good cat and mouse game.
Dr. Giggles is an intriguing addition to the 90’s horror game, while memorable perhaps not as good as it could gave been. The direction by Manny Coto does lack in some areas, it does shine when it works. The script also by Coto could have done with some extra tweaks, it is still genuinely solid. Coto has proved himself as a great writer with his work on TV’s Dexter (2006 – 2013) and 24 (2001 – 2010), and Dr. Giggles shows the earlier talents. This is a film whose promotional artwork was far more terrifying than the actual product, but remains fairly entertaining and a solid venture.
Review written by Marcella Papandrea