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  Dr. Giggles Check Up, Check Out
Year: 1991
Director: Manny Coto
Stars: Larry Drake, Holly Marie Combs, Cliff De Young, Glenn Quinn, Keith Diamond, Richard Bradford, Michelle Johnson, John Vickery, Nancy Fish, Sara Nelson, Zoe Trilling, Darin Heames, Deborah Tucker, Doug E. Doug, Denise Barnes, Patrick Cronin
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: There’s trouble at the mental asylum when one of the inmates who is only known by the nickname Dr Giggles (Larry Drake) decides he doesn't wish to be locked up anymore and makes a bid for escape. He gained that moniker thanks to his habit of laughing to himself, especially when he’s making mayhem, and the doctor part because he has a lot of medical knowledge which tonight he puts to poor use when he cuts open a guard in the establishment's operating theatre to the delight of the other inmates he has set free. Meanwhile, Jennifer Campbell (Holly Marie Combs) is a normal teenager but for one thing: her heart condition. Her doctor tells her a small operation will solve that, but not to get too overexcited...

Which might he difficult with a homicidal maniac around, though that was your high concept right there for one of the nineties slashers that manfully tried to keep the form alive in the face of dwindling interest aside from the hardcore horror fans who would go and see all the shockers they could regardless of quality. It wasn't until Scream happened along a handful of years later just after the middle of the decade that things picked up again, though it soon devolved into a bunch of low budget tributes and cash-ins by and by, leaving the style perhaps in the domain of the smaller production where it seemed to thrive. This, however, had a bit of money spent on it, mostly for effects.

In the lead role was Larry Drake, who had won plaudits for his role as the mentally challenged character on television's L.A. Law but when it came to his film career, he appeared to be all too keen to distance himself from that sweet natured demeanour and prove his range, hence the baddies he showed up as. Or was it that with his huge, hulking frame the villains were more or less all he was invited to play? Whichever, he was good at it, and at least Dr Giggles - not to be confused with Dr Snuggles - gave him a star billing as he truly was the main attraction thanks to the steady stream of quips he was offered to deliver via the script by director Manny Coto and his co-writer Graeme Whifler (who had a different cult movie under his belt from earlier with Sonny Boy).

In fact, this was so intent on giving its antagonist a Freddy Krueger-esque range of puns and funnies that he began to resemble less a mad doctor and more a crazed stand-up comedian, everything was included from "If you think that’s bad, wait till you get my bill" to "Laughter is the best medicine" to the inevitable "The doctor is IN!" This left the impression that what the doc needed was not a medical bag to keep his syringes and cutting equipment in and more a microphone and stand to lean his elbow on, though to be fair he did raise a few laughs, as corny jokes are wont to do should they hit you in the right mood. It's just that it meant Drake had to work extra hard to be appropriately menacing.

He was skilled enough to use his intimidating appearance to that end, but as usual with your average slasher there were instances where you would ask yourself, would anyone really behave like that? Not going on a physician-based killing spree, obviously that was deeply unlikely, but what about the horny teen who insisted on his girlfriend dressing up in his mother's underwear before they got it on? Was that normal? Fortunately Combs as Jennifer moved through the panic as the sensible final girl with some degree of level-headedness, though even she was not immune to the allure of the well-delivered pun, it was like an infection in the dialogue that was spreading to the other characters. She would go on to be a big television star in the United States, and it’s curious how many such performers would have a horror movie in their CV when they were in the beginnings of their career; this was no better nor worse than many, but it was the rubbery gore that proved the attraction over the cast, aside from Drake who almost lifted this above the average through sheer force of will. Music by Brian May.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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