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Dr. Giggles Reviews

A cliched throwback to the early 1980s slasher genre, DR. GIGGLES transplants the heart of a NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET sequel--wisecracking killer--into the body of HALLOWEEN--psycho killer returns to his hometown to slash anew--but lacks the wit of the former or the tension of the latter. Evan Rendell (Larry Drake of TV's "LA Law"), who thinks he's a physician and is nicknamed "Dr. Giggles" for his tendency to titter in times of stress, escapes from an asylum after butchering a couple of workers. He then heads for his hometown of Moorehigh, where he sets up a makeshift office in the house where he grew up. The place is now the stuff of local legend--when Evan was a boy, his father murdered several people in an attempt to find a heart to replace that of his dying wife; the townsfolk killed Rendell and his son disappeared without a trace. Today, teenager Jennifer Campbell (Holly Marie Combs) is having heart problems of her own, and is told by town doctor Chamberlain (John Vickery) that she may need an operation. This, compounded by memories of her mother dying in a hospital, is severely troubling Jennifer and straining her relationships with her father Tom (Cliff DeYoung), his new wife Tamara (Michelle Johnson), and her own boyfriend Max Anderson (Glenn Quinn). Meanwhile, four of Jennifer's friends go exploring the old Rendell place; two of them are locked in and dispatched by Dr. Giggles. The next to go is the nosy old lady (Nancy Fish) who lives next door; as with all his victims, Dr. Giggles dispatches her with a piece of outsized medical equipment drawn from a seemingly bottomless doctor's bag. The bad doctor goes on to dispatch two more hapless teens, then invades Jennifer's house and kills Tamara before going up to Jennifer's room. There he finds evidence of the girl's heart condition and vows to "save" her. He pursues her to the carnival, where Jennifer has discovered Max in a clinch with fellow student Coreen (Sara Melson); following the three into a hall of mirrors, Dr. Giggles kills Coreen and takes off in pursuit of Jennifer as Max watches helplessly. The police manage to find Jennifer before Dr. Giggles does, and after hearing her and Max's story, young Officer Joe Reitz (Keith Diamond) begins to believe the Rendell legend is true. Sure enough, older Officer Magruder recounts to Reitz that he was a rookie when the earlier Rendell massacre took place, and that he alone witnessed young Evan cutting his way out of his mother's corpse--his father had sewn him inside--before the boy disappeared. Still stalking Jennifer, Dr. Giggles wounds Tom in his house and kills Magruder when the latter stops by; but Magruder has managed to shoot and wound him, and he is forced to return to his old house and extract the bullet himself. He then abducts Jennifer from Dr. Chamberlain's office, killing Chamberlain in the process, and spirits her to his "operating room," where he will give her a new heart--one of many he's extracted from his victims. But the operation is interrupted by the arrival of Reitz, who dies trying to save Jennifer, and then Max, who rescues her after a chase and struggle in the house's basement offices. Dr. Giggles apparently dies in an ensuing explosion--but then turns up at the hospital where Jennifer is to undergo a real operation. She manages to fight back, however, and kill him with the grotesque surgical devices he was planning to use on her. DR. GIGGLES has exactly two effective moments, neither of which occurs during the movie's main action: the opening credit sequence, which takes us on a computer-generated trip through the bloodstream before Giggles's scalpel slices in; and the unnerving flashback to when the young Evan climbs bloodily out of his mother's corpse. Everything about the film's basic story, on the other hand, proceeds with a disheartening lack of originality, logic or thrills. The characters themselves are one-dimensional stereotypes, from the idiot teenagers who talk only in partyspeak to the knucklehead adults who don't bother to turn the lights on even after they've discovered a bloody body on the floor. Their actions occur not because they make dramatic sense, but solely to motivate the simplistic storyline. Thus, Jennifer, who's been told to wear a heart-monitoring device and avoid stressful situations, carelessly tosses the device away early on and, instead of escaping into the crowded carnival after the hall of mirrors pursuit, decides to lead a long chase through the nearby woods. She's one resilient girl, though; during the climax, she's able to walk barefoot on floors where glass has been shattered and spilled water has been electrified. The film's original story was written by Graeme Whifler, also responsible for the bizarre cult mini-classic SONNY BOY, but what co-screenwriter and director Manny Coto (JACK IN THE BOX, COVER-UP) has turned out is groaningly conventional, from the teen-sex-begets-violence horror scenes to the ridiculous "shocker" ending to the medically themed, sub-Freddy Krueger one-liners that make up just about all of Dr. Giggles's dialogue. And although the look is fairly slick, the occasional directorial flourishes often get silly. In a scene apparently inspired by HUSBANDS AND WIVES, the handheld camera lurches from one character to another until it appears to lose track of what it's supposed to be focusing on. Given the one-note level of Dr. Giggles, it's not surprising that Drake doesn't appear to be having much fun with the role, even when, at the climax, he turns and intones to the audience, "Is there a doctor in the house?" What this project really needed was a script doctor. (Excessive violence, sexual situations.)