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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Dr. Giggles

May 9, 2020 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Dr Giggles

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #554: Dr. Giggles

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that firmly believes that if your neighborhood has a gigantic abandoned house in it with all kinds of weird stories about it, like the owner killed his family and is now a ghost haunting it or there’s a rumor about a guy with two heads and a chainsaw hand is living in the basement or attic or something, you need to tear that goddamn house down because bad shit is going to happen there at some point and it’s best to just get ahead of it, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number five hundred and fifty-four, I take a look at the classic slasher flick Dr. Giggles, which hit movie theatres in late October 1992.

Dr. Giggles


Dr. Giggles, directed and co-written by Manny Coto, is a slasher flick that should have been the first in a slasher movie franchise. It has all of the necessary elements to be one and, including an actor that clearly relished playing the bad guy of the movie’s title. Dr. Giggles didn’t become a franchise, though, likely due to slasher movies losing their popularity in the early 1990’s, at least at the theatrical box office. On home video and TV Dr. Giggles probably did very well, but whatever that popularity was likely wasn’t good enough to warrant a sequel. And that’s a damn shame because a Dr. Giggles franchise would have been cool as hell.

Dr. Giggles stars Larry Drake as Evan Rendell, a locked up super psychopath who, at the beginning of the movie, manages to break out of the mental hospital he’s being treated at, kill multiple people, and head for the small town he grew up in. His family’s old house is still there, abandoned and subject to various urban legend style stories, and when Rendell arrives there he plans on “reopening” his father’s old doctor’s practice and exact revenge on the town and the people Rendell believes destroyed his mother and father when he was a child. See, back when Rendell was a small child his mother died from heart failure and his father (William Dennis Hunt), the town’s doctor, went batshit insane and killed several people, cutting out their hearts while they were still alive. That moment and the ensuing controversy over what happened warped Evan Rendell’s already troubled mind and helped make him the deranged monster he would eventually become.

Now, while all of that is happening, the town’s hip and edgy dipshit teenagers are planning a big hooha summer of debauchery and fucking around and whatnot and one of the places they all hope to fuck around at is the old Rendell house. The teens like going into the house and looking for the various secret passageways that are believed to be there. The audience knows that’s a bad idea, but then these teens are, well, teens, and are incredibly fucking stupid. The old Rendell house isn’t haunted and, yeah, they don’t know that Rendell is going to be there and use that as his base of kill operations, but they should all know that if there’s an abandoned house in the neighborhood the best thing to do is just leave it the fuck alone. So, of course, Rendell starts his doctor themed killing spree in the house, wasting two teens who were “accidentally” locked inside.

And while all of that is going on, hip and edgy teen girl Jennifer Campbell (Holly Marie Combs) is pissed that she won’t be able to participate in the summer debauchery because of her chronic heart condition. Jennifer has to be seen by a doctor every few weeks, she has to wear a heart monitor, and she’s just a downer because she knows she can’t have the same kind of fun as her friends. Her boyfriend Max (Glenn Quinn) tries to be supportive and understanding, but because he’s a dipshit he screws up their relationship (he would rather fuck around with his friends, and he briefly cheats on Jennifer with a girl at a party). Jennifer is also pissed at her widower father Tom (the great Cliff De Young), who is screwing around with a younger woman named Tamara (Michelle Johnson). Jennifer hates Tamara, and Tamara isn’t exactly Jennifer’s biggest fan, either.

As Rendell starts his doctor themed killing spree, most of the town’s cops act like they have no idea what’s going on. A younger, newer cop named Officer Joe Reitz (Keith Diamond), attempts to investigate the various murders and suspects that Rendell is behind all of them (he tries to decipher the meaning and truthfulness of the old stories). Reitz’s partner, old cop Officer Hank Magruder (good old Mr. Pyatt hisself Richard Bradford), doesn’t want to stir up the old stories and tries to make Reitz believe there’s something else going on.

All of these story threads eventually come together, with Jennifer becoming a sort of focus of Rendell’s rage. Rendell believes he’s a doctor, just like his father, and he believes he can “cure” Jennifer’s heart issues. And anyone who gets in Rendell’s way is, well, going to die. That’s just what he does.

Okay, so where does the Dr. Giggles comes from? Rendell isn’t called “Dr. Giggles” in the movie, so what the hell does the title mean? Rendell has a tendency to giggle every so often. It’s almost like a nervous tick, something that he does involuntarily. It’s incredibly unsettling, though, when the giggle coincides with him killing someone. You can bet your ass that if they did a sequel someone in that movie would have called him “Dr. Giggles,” or at least told stories about a “Dr. Giggles.”

One of the great things about Dr. Giggles is that it starts immediately with the nastiness and never really stops. The movie starts out with Rendell doing “surgery” on a doctor that he’s killed in the mental hospital and Rendell has several of his mental patient colleagues watching the surgery. It’s a terrific, twisted opening. And pretty much every kill in the movie is similar in terms of its tone. It’s ridiculous. Even when the movie gets heavy and really disturbing, like in Rendell’s flashbacks to when he was a kid (and the flashback Officer Magruder has is so fucked up I’m shocked more people don’t talk about it today when it comes to fucked up moments in horror movies). The actual kills, though, are hit and miss. Some of the weaponry Rendell uses on his victims is kind of lame (there’s a giant Band-Aid that, on paper, probably sounded brilliant but in practice is anti-climactic). The movie also isn’t gory enough. Some of the kills should be way bloodier than they are. Way bloodier.

That isn’t to say that the movie doesn’t have some gory stuff in it. The final sequence of the movie is probably the nastiest thing you will see (well, outside of the bucket of human hearts. That image is absolutely disgusting. And Magruder’s flashback. That sequence is so fucking insane). I have a feeling, though, that director Coto and the producers held back on some of the carnage because they didn’t want to spend their entire lives trying to get an R rating from the MPAA, as the MPAA has always, to a certain extent, hated horror movies (and in the early 1990’s they despised them). I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that, even with restraint, that there’s nasty stuff sitting on the cutting room floor because that kind of thing always happens with slasher movies.

Another great thing about Dr. Giggles is its sense of humor. I wouldn’t exactly call the movie a horror comedy, but it revels in being absolutely ridiculous. An escaped mental patient that poses as a doctor and kills people while giggling? And the doctor is played by Larry Drake, a guy who somehow manages to be both deadly serious and winking at the audience at the same time. The whole thing is absurd. And it works. You can also tell that Drake is having the time of his life playing Rendell/Giggles, and with that obvious joy out front you’re never really scared of him. I mean, you’re scared of Rendell/Giggles in the moment, but, in an overall sense, you’re not going to have nightmares about him. Dr. Giggles isn’t interested in being that kind of movie. The movie wants to be fun more than anything else.

Dr. Giggles also has an amazing look. The abandoned house set, the hidden old doctor’s office inside of the abandoned house, the neighborhood as a whole, it all looks terrific. It’s slick, yes, but it isn’t so slick that it looks fake.” Even Jennifer’s house in the suburbs has more character than you expect it to. And that carnival/fair that’s happening in town? We’ve all been to places like that and it looks exactly like you expect it to. I’m shocked there aren’t multiple kills in this area.


As I said, Larry Drake is brilliant as Rendell/Dr. Giggles. You can tell that he’s having the time of his life playing the character and he clearly relishes the absurdity of what he’s doing. Drake also knows how to be scary without being objectionable. That’s a gift. It’s too bad that he didn’t get to do multiple Dr. Giggles sequels because I’m fairly certain he would have kicked ass in all of them.

Holly Marie Combs does a great job as Jennifer, the troubled teen woman with a heart problem. You like her spunk and spirit and you sympathize with her predicament because she has to deal with too much shit. There’s her heart problem, her family issues, her dipshit boyfriend, her asshole other friends, it’s just too much. And then she has to deal with a wacked out killer? What the hell?

Glenn Quinn does an okay job as Jennifer’s boyfriend Max. At first he seems like an understanding guy, but he lets Jennifer down in the middle of the movie and then he has to regain her trust. It’s interesting how he isn’t as proactive as you sort of expect him to be. He tries but, in the end, he isn’t that guy. He tries, but he’s not very good at it. Keith Diamond’s Officer Joe Reitz is more of a hero. It’s a damn shame what happens to him. A damn shame.

Richard Bradford is a bit of a sleazebag as Officer Hank Magruder, at least at the beginning. He becomes more sympathetic as the movie progresses because of what you find out about him, but you never exactly like him. And this kind of part is right in Bradford’s wheelhouse because, well, he was the sleazebag Mr. Pyatt in The Legend of Billie Jean, That’s the kind of role that sticks with you whether you want it to or not.

I kind of wish the movie spent just a little more time with some of Jennifer’s friends. You don’t need ten minutes with each person, but a minute or two would have been sufficient. And I’d like to know more about Tamara, Jennifer’s father’s new girlfriend. Michelle Johnson does a good job with the scant few minutes she appears on screen, but I think she deserved one super bitch scene, especially if we’re supposed to hate her. And why did Cliff De Young’s Tom Campbell hook up with Tamara in the first place?

It really stinks that we didn’t get more Dr. Giggles movies. I have no idea what they would have been about (the movie is based on a Dark Horse Comics book but I never read the comic so I have no idea where the book went) but it would have been cool to have at least one or two sequels. Larry Drake would have kicked ass in them. At least we got this one.

When the heck are we going to get a Shout! Factory/Scream Factory Collector’s Edition Blu-ray of Dr. Giggles? Or a Blu-ray from Arrow Films? Isn’t that something that needs to happen? Of course it does. Hopefully, one day, it will.

If you’re a fan of horror flicks, slasher flicks, and or movies where lead actors are clearly having a ball, see Dr. Giggles. It’s a classic through and through.

See Dr. Giggles. See it, see it, see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: 18

Explosions: A gigantic one and it’s pretty cool.

Nudity?: Yes, and it’s disturbing as hell.

Doobage: A heart monitor that turns into the title of the movie, early 1990’s CGI animation, heart surgery, electric saw hooey, off screen double arm removal, glass partition licking, off screen throat slitting, I’D card stealing, car stealing, heart doctor visit, an abandoned house in a suburb, apple eating, multiple flashbacks, stuffed animal surgery, a really mean door trick, dick touching, long needle through a keyhole, blood puking, a big teen party, attempted drinking, pill switching, light up through the nose, an ironing board jump scare, a condom, a thing where a guy asks his girlfriend to wear his mother’s lingerie, a massive amount of ice cream, flicking melted ice cream on the mirror, chair bondage, funhouse mirror room hooey, a bloody nose, off screen likely suffocation with a giant Band-Aid, mirror smashing, rock to the head, a cop that has a bottle of booze in his locker that hasn’t been opened in thirty-five years, a grown child popping out of a dead woman’s body, saw across the chest, scalpel shoved into the back of the head, bullet to the mid-section, an EKG, personal surgery, scissors to the back, scissors to the knee, a doctor’s utensils fight, reflex hammer attack, death via blood pressure cuff, seriously messed up steps, a bucket full of human hearts, a dead body waiting room, serious barfing, heart shocking, human heart throwing, golf club attack, saw to the back, face kicking, exploding house, window breaking, serious electrocution, and utensils through the chest.

Kim Richards?: Almost.

Gratuitous: A quote from Hippocrates, Larry Drake, Larry Drake performing open heart surgery, Larry Drake giggling, Doug E. Doug, a group of fucking douchebags, a sign on the wall that says AIDS, computer shit, an old rhyme, Larry Drake shaving, Ben Casey M.D. on a TV, Weekly World News, a carnival, a kid playing Dr. Mario, a guy trying to retrieve a condom out of a toilet using a toothbrush, a thermometer with a spike on the end of it jammed into a woman’s mouth, a pig stuffed animal, forced stomach pumping, someone learning how to use a saxophone, a cop eating Chinese food with chopsticks, “I don’t have to promise you doodley squat,” database research, a slasher movie villain using a gun, and a hospital.

Best lines: “You win some, you lose some,” “He should have kept his hands to himself,” “Laughter is the best medicine,” “I hope you can breathe through your ears,” “Hey, that’s an odd looking radio,” “Ugh, I think it’s dislocated,” “Get ready to take your medicine, Moorehigh. The doctor is in,” “I’m not really seeing patients yet, but I think I can make an exception,” “That crazy broad sees rapists in her hemorrhoid cream,” “I need a doctor. It’s a good thing I make house calls,” “A good physician always has the right tool for the job,” “I’m not going up that staircase unless I drop another thirty pounds and that ain’t going to be for a long time,” “I’m sorry, Max, I gotta be alone tonight,” “Sixty-five? These people are Eskimos,” “I hope you have protection,” “Terminal,” “I know, I know. It sucks,” “Have an accident? It probably just needs a Band-Aid,” “Trust me, I’m a doctor,” “If you think that’s bad wait until you get my bill,” “You owe me thirty-five years of sleep you sick sonofabitch!,” “What are you doing? Chasing nursing rhymes,” “If I were you I’d get a second opinion,” “Jennifer, my problem is I care too much,” “That is very unprofessional of you, doctor,” “Either you’re dead or my watch has stopped,” “You may be having second thoughts but when you wake up you will have a change of heart,” “Should have used an eight iron,” “Don’t make me laugh!,” “Who the hell are you? I’m her doctor!,” “You were dead! I’m not that good of a doctor,” “Jennifer, it’s time to take your medicine. Try some of your own medicine!,” “I don’t feel well. Take two and call me in the morning,” and “Is there a doctor in the house?”

Rating: 9.0/10.0


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B-movies rule. Always remember that.

Dr. Giggles

Larry Drake– Dr. Evan Rendell/Dr. Giggles
Holly Marie Combs– Jennifer Campbell
Cliff De Young– Tom Campbell
Glenn Quinn– Max Anderson
Keith Diamond– Officer Joe Reitz
Richard Bradford– Officer Hank Magruder
Michelle Johnson– Tamara
Doug E. Doug– Trotter

(check out the rest of the cast here

Directed by Manny Coto
Screenplay by Graeme Whifler and Manny Coto

Distributed by Universal Pictures, MCA/Universal Home Video, Good Times Home Video, and Warner Home Video

Rated R for horror violence and gore and for language.
Runtime– 95 minutes

Buy it here