This week's VHS is the 1992 ham-fest Dr. Giggles. It wasn't exactly a first watch, but I hadn't seen it since it came out so it might as well have been. I probably snagged this copy from my video store prior to my exit.
A maniac known only as Dr. Giggles (Larry Drake) escapes from an asylum and heads to his hometown to wreak havoc (sound familiar?) on its inhabitants, including nineties cuties Holly Marie Combs and Glenn Quinn. I also don't know why he is shooting green lasers out of his eyes on the cover...
Ah, the early nineties. What a wasteland it was for American horror. With genre meal tickets Jason and Freddy waning after having put out their worst entries, studios were looking for fresh IP's. Meaning they basically threw everything at the wall and saw what stuck. Some did (Leprechaun for instance) and some didn't (Dr. Giggles).
|Larry Drake as Dr. Giggles|
This time was also when most slashers (again taking Freddy's lead) were camp fests, filled to the brim with one-liners. I think it may have been an attempt to curry favour with the censors - hey, gore can't be bad if it's funny, right? - because Dr. Giggles has wall-to-wall, drinking-game frequency puns and more sight gags than you can shake a thermometer at. Admittedly, Drake is pretty great and plays his ridiculous role with the same weight he did as Durant in Sam Raimi's Darkman two years earlier.
And speaking of Raimi, I feel director Manny Coto was a big fan. I can see a lot of Darkman-era Raimi in this movie, not only in tone, but also camera style, especially the carnival set piece. Coto also enlisted Raimi cohorts KNB EFX to do the gore. I wager a good deal of it ended up on the censor room floor, but even in their truncated form, the over-the-top kills are the movie's most entertaining attribute.
Dr. Giggles is utterly dumb-as-fuck, but it also has its charms. It always gives me a chuckle to remember this wasn't some fly-by-night Full Moon production; this played theatres! I wasn't kidding when I said “wasteland”. Studios were so starved for horror content, it was just insane the stuff I was seeing at my local multiplex. The Lawnmower Man, for Christ sakes! Trust me, this was the stretch I was working in a video store and I saw it all. What a wonderful time to be alive!
Edit: I found out today that stuntman George P. Wilbur passed away. He was 81. Wilbur was the man who donned the white mask of Michael Myers in the Halloween films of my teenage years. He amassed over a hundred credits during his six decades in the biz, including Dr. Giggles! Rest in peace, George.