Underrated Horror Film Review: Dr. Giggles (1992)

Here’s an underrated slasher film that doesn’t get enough credit for what it is set to be: A dark horror comedy full of medical and doctor-related puns. I didn’t love it when I first watched Dr. Giggles as a kid because I was expecting a straightforward horror movie about a deranged doctor. But I didn’t expect there will be a heavy dose of comedy in it.

Thirty years later, I decided to revisit Dr. Giggles to coincide with the month of Halloween and find the movie reasonably fun and macabre, thanks largely to Larry Drake’s title character. His gleefully over-the-top is one of his best performances other than his Robert G. Durant role in Darkman (1990). He’s the reason that made this movie watchable enough, beginning with the memorable opening massacre scene in a mental hospital. The way he giggles, coupled with the level of campiness and absurdity that he embraces his role of a psychotic doctor wholeheartedly, he’s truly deserved a place as one of the best slasher villains in the ’90s era. Not to forget his interesting choices of weapons for killing his victims with different medical instruments ranging from scalpels to a stomach pump.

A scene from "Dr. Giggles" (1992)

But I particularly enjoyed his wisecracking remarks the most, where co-writers Manny Coto and Graeme Whifler offer him a few best lines in the movie. Here are the samples worth mentioning here:

If you think that’s bad, wait until you get my bill.

I know. It sucks. (while using the stomach pump on one of his victims)

I haven’t discharged you!

You may be having second thoughts but when you wake up, you will have a change of heart.

No doubt Larry Drake owns the role and it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing the title character in this movie. The plot, however, is a standard-issue slasher-movie formula: After Dr. Giggles’ killing spree in a mental hospital, he escapes and returns to his hometown of Moorehigh. His plan? Kill the townsfolk and the movie offers a flashback detailing his doctor dad’s (William Dennis Hurt’s Dr. Evan Rendell Sr.) murderous quest for killing several people to find a heart replacement for his dying wife. As the body count rises, Dr. Giggles subsequently crosses paths with a local teenager named Jennifer Campbell (Holly Marie Combs), who apparently has a heart problem.

Holly Marie Combs in "Dr. Giggles" (1992)

The story itself is nothing new but at least Manny Coto, who also directed the movie, knows well how to play it straight with enough gore, one-liners and of course, Larry Drake’s scene-stealing performance as Dr. Giggles. If the name Holly Marie Combs (prior to her, Ashley Judd and Jennifer Aniston reportedly auditioned for the role of Jennifer as well) sounds familiar, that’s because she would become a future star for the long-running TV’s Charmed, where she plays Piper Halliwell.

Shame that Dr. Giggles didn’t do well during its initial theatrical release on October 23, 1992, where it only managed to land a lower No. 7 opening weekend with just US$2.7 million. That same weekend also saw another horror movie called Candyman, which was already in its second week at No. 4. Dr. Giggles ended up with US$8.4 million and it’s pretty much gone under the radar ever since. Except, of course, if you are a fan of the B-horror genre. Perhaps Dr. Giggles‘ slasher-movie territory would have performed better during the heights of its aforementioned genre during the ’80s era.