The Horror Honeys: Slasher Hexmas: THE DOCTOR IS IN…SANE!

Slasher Hexmas: THE DOCTOR IS IN…SANE!

A Sci-Fi Honey Slasher Month Review by Katie

Dr. Giggles (1992)

This town has a doctor, and his name is Rendell;
Stay away from his house cause he's the doctor from Hell.
He killed all his patients, every last one, 
And cut out their hearts, purely for fun.
So if you're from Moorehigh and you get sick, 
Fall on your knees and pray you die quick.

Nobody likes going to the doctor. A typical visit might entail an excruciatingly long wait, followed by a litany of embarrassing questions that end with you prone and vulnerable on a cold table, exposed emotionally and physically to the uncomfortable awkwardness of a physical examination. But what if your doctor had all the tools and knowledge that comes with the study of medicine and anatomy, and was also certifiably insane? You’d get Dr. Giggles, also known as Dr. Evan Rendell (Larry Drake): a giddy, scalpel-happy quack with a passion for defective tickers. With a surprising amount of heart (literally) and enough pun-riddled one-liners to cement Dr. Giggles’ legacy as pure horror/comedy gold, the film is an underrated but essential addition to the teen slasher subgenre. 

Drake was in the middle of an acclaimed stint on L.A. Law when he took on the starring role of Dr. Giggles: an insane asylum escapee who returns to his hometown ala Michael Myers to seek revenge on the townspeople who murdered his father, Dr. Rendell Sr., and destroyed his medical practice. Both father and son were driven mad by the death of Mrs. Rendell, who lost the battle to a congenital heart defect. Seeking a new heart for his beloved, Dr. Rendell Sr.’s reign of terror over the town resulted in his death by stoning, and his son institutionalized – until now. Setting his sights on Jennifer, a new patient with the same disorder (played an adorably teenaged Holly Marie Combs), Dr. Giggles slices and dices his way through town in a delusional attempt at curing her condition. 

No. This is not how you medicine. 
Dr. Rendell Jr. gained the moniker “Dr. Giggles” because of the maniacal titter that accompanies all of his kills, but he especially earns it for all of his doctor-centric wordplay. The film is teeming with puns about the medical profession, from “laughter is the best medicine” to “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” delivered with groan-inducing but always entertaining gusto from Larry Drake. Not since Batman & Robin’s Mr. Freeze has a killer uttered so many wisecracks while wreaking havoc; whether the mad doctor is snuffing someone out with a giant Band-Aid, an otoscope, a stomach pump, or even a thermometer, Giggles uses every surgical tool in his bag to teach a deadly lesson about taking care of your health. The one-liners in the film are so over-the-top, they achieve that rare “so bad it’s good” quality that we’ve all come to adore from cheesy slasher movies.

Somebody give this guy a hand. 
If the film had stuck with pure horror comedy, it might not have suffered as much from its biggest issue: an inconsistent (and sometimes incoherent) tone. Along with lighter comedic elements, the film tries to balance the weight of solemn dramatic subjects with gratuitous gore. On one end of the spectrum there’s the emotional component of Dr. Rendell’s madness, spurred on by the loss of his mother and father, whom he idolized. His descent into insanity is mirrored by Jennifer’s downward spiral of self-pity following the loss of her own mother and the diagnosis of her faulty heart valve. Oppositely, there’s the excessive nature of the film’s kills, which tally up to more than a dozen: from castration to brain penetration to a grown child climbing out of a corpse’s womb, there’s plenty of gross-out splatter for any gorehound to appreciate. Unfortunately, writer/director Manny Coto never did achieve that sense of creative balance that’s missing from Dr. Giggles; he later went on to write the disastrous series finale of Dexter.

At least he didn't become a lumberjack.
The early 90s signaled a death knell for teen slashers before dear departed Wes Craven revitalized the genre with Scream, and Dr. Giggles got in the game right at the tail end of this thematic heyday. Coto and his co-writer Graeme Whifler simply capitalized on an ordinary fear and amplified it to an extreme degree; doctors in general have access to the innermost parts of you, tools with which they can prod and examine every inch of you, and exert an unnerving amount of control over your fate. Dr. Rendell/Giggles is the radical personification of that fear for anyone who feels helplessly vulnerable in the care of a physician. But if you have a fever for guilty pleasures, look no further than this 90s slasher time capsule: Dr. Giggles is sure to satisfy anyone seeking a lethal dose of both guttural laughs and literal guts.

Sci-Fi Honey Rating: Three Giggles out of five; take all three and call me in the morning.

Dr. Giggles is available via iTunes, YouTube, Vudu, Google Play, & DVD

Would you make an appointment with Dr. Giggles?
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