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Old 08-26-2010, 05:24 AM
Stalker
 
Scored: 6
Views: 8,845
Dr. Giggles / Otis






Reviewer: Chunkblower
Review Date: August 25, 2010

Format: Blu-ray
Released by: Warner
Release date: July 6, 2010
MSRP: $24.98
Region A
Progressive Scan
Codec: VC-1, 1080p
Widescreen 1.78 (Dr. Giggles) 2.40 (Otis) | 16x9: Yes
1992 (Dr. Giggles) 2008 (Otis)





The Story

Dr. Giggles



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Original DVD

Itís the end of the school year and while all her class mates are gearing up for a summer of illicit activities, Jennifer Campbell (Holly Marie Combs) is strapped to a heart monitoring device and under doctorís orders to avoid drinking, partying and generally having a good time. She has a mitral valve prolapse that may require surgery to correct it and while her doctor assures her that itís a routine procedure, thatís cold comfort to a girl whose mother died on the operating table during a so-called routine procedure. Add to that a stepmother (Michelle Johnson) who is all of fifteen seconds older than Jennifer and a dad (Cliff DeYoung) who seems generally oblivious to her turmoil and you have one unhappy girl.


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Original DVD

Unluckily for Jennifer a heart specialist of sorts has returned after a long hiatus in an insane asylum to the town of Moorehigh (do you think Jennifer attends Moorehigh High?). Known only as Dr. Giggles (Larry Drake) to the staff of the institution he escapes from, heís actually the son of town legend Evan Rendell. Rendell was a doctor who, in an attempt to cure his ailing wifeís heart condition, made unwilling live donors out of his patient roster. Not surprisingly this didnít sit too well with the rest of the townsfolk and, in a Nightmare-esque bit of vigilante justice, they killed Rendell. Now Evan has returned to administer his own brand of ďtreatmentĒ to the town responsible for the death of his father. When Giggles learns of Jenniferís heart condition he becomes fixated on curing her and, by extension, finishing his fatherís work. Unfortunately, in this case, the cure is definitely worse than the disease.


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There are a lot of things wrong with Dr. Giggles but it comes up short on its two key selling points. First of all, the creative deaths really arenít that creative. Giggles swaps out some old biddyís medication, stabs a girl with a (extremely phallic) thermometer, injects a guy with poison, amputates a guyís package with a scalpel (not likely fatal, at least not immediately)Öall pretty run of the mill. There are a few murders that show a modicum of creativity in playing with the medical theme - a scene where Dr. Giggles pumps a womanís stomach with a vicious looking auger, for instance - but these are too few and too far in between. There is one genuinely nightmarish moment where the film eschews its campy tone and gives us a truly disturbing image of a young boy performing reverse c-section. The shot of Evan Jr. emerging from his motherís stomach is almost Cronebergian in its weirdness and is still supremely effective, even after nearly 20 years. This scene is what the whole movie should have been like.


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Original DVD

Secondly, the offbeat humor is not nearly as funny as it needs to be. Gigglesí one-liners are pretty obvious and one-note. ďI hope you have protection,Ē before loping off a randy teenagersí gear. Even at his worst, Freddy was able to come up with better lines than that. Giggles came late to the game after the Friday and Nightmare films had devolved into self-parody and tried to emulate the later films in those series. Problem was, audience tastes had already shifted back to more serious and grim movies: The Silence of the Lambs a year before and Candyman the same year are two examples. Dr. Giggles was behind the curve even before it was released.


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Original DVD

Star Larry Drake is an unconventional looking actor with a great range. He has the ability to be sympathetic (Benny in L.A. Law) as well as menacing (Durant in Darkman). Here heís asked to be both simultaneously, but the script is more concerned in trailer friendly one-liners than creating interesting characters and gory set pieces than suspense. The film wants to have it both ways by giving Dr. Giggles a back-story that earns him sympathy, wanting him to be funny and wanting him to be scary all at once. The problem is it becomes pretty hard to hate him: heís not evil personified; heís just a crazy guy who actually has the best intentions at heart (literally). Drake gives it his all, and you canít help but want to reward his effort.


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Holly Marie Combs, on the other hand, is like a second tier Neve Campbell and in this film sheís probably the most dour and downbeat ďheroineĒ ever. She has none of the pluck that a survivor girl needs to be a true scream queen. The writers try to use her medical condition as short hand for actually creating a character. How about making her a pampered bitch with a chip on her shoulder and have her arc be how she learns she canít hide behind her illness anymore? Any kind of character would be preferable to no character at all.


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Original DVD

All this is given a far better visual sheen than it deserves. Cinematographer Robert Draper was still a relative newcomer when he shot Dr. Giggles but he was already a vet of the genre having shot a half dozen of the best Tales from the Crypt episodes, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie and Halloween 5 [Ed: Which is still a great looking movie.]. He has a keen eye for moody and atmospheric lighting with lots of dramatic shadows, fog, smoke and shafts of light. He evokes the same kind of atmosphere of the silent German expressionist masterpieces of the 20ís and the classic Universal monster films of the 30ís and 40ís. Itís never subtle, with this kind of material subtlety wouldnít be appropriate, but itís almost always effective. His efforts, however, are akin to putting a band-aid on a broken leg.


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Original DVD

Dr. Giggles is a trashy, tacky, tasteless and flat-out terrible exercise in exploitation. As crappy as it is, though, it does hold a certain amount of charm that saves it from being a total write-off. I donít think there was any horror film produced during this time period that feels so much of its time. As a child of the 80s and 90s, I canít help but have affection for it. Everything about it just screams 1992, from the heavy-handed safe sex message to the shameless Nintendo plug (for Dr. Mario, of course), the cheesy post-T2 CGI, and Twin Peaks references. It even steals the same eye in the key hole gag that Childís Play 2 used a couple of years prior. Best of all, thereís a brief appearance by one of my favourite 90s B-movie vixens, ZoŽ Trilling (ZoŽ, if youíre reading this, call me).

The strange thing is how confident Giggles seems that it will receive a follow up. With its unceremonious introduction of the titular villain- heís introduced with no fanfare, like weíre already supposed to know who he is - and its delving into the back story of the character, Dr. Giggles feels like the second or third entry in a series, not the film thatís designed to kick off the franchise. In itís desperation to entertain its teenage audience it doesnít waste any time getting to the gore and gags, and thereís something kind of cute about that.


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With so many hang ups dealing with sex, death and the body Ė to say nothing of the automatic trust most people have for physicians - there was a real opportunity to make a truly horrifying film that touches on very deep seated fears and exploits the betrayal of trust a murderous doctor would represent. That the filmmakers went instead with a transparent Freddy Krueger clone in a crass attempt to spawn a franchise is a disappointment in the extreme.



Otis


inline ImageOtis Broth (Bostin Christopher) is an overweight 40-year-old who works the night shift delivering pizza. His brother, Elmo Broth (Kevin Pollack) can barely contain his contempt for Otisí immaturity and slovenly ways and heaps emotional and physical abuse every time he visits Otis. Otis lives only for his fantasy life.

The night he delivers pizza to the Lawson house and meets Riley (none other than Chrissie Seaver herself, Ashley Johnson). To say Otis is a fast mover would be an understatement. He wastes no time and abducts Riley from the front of her home the next morning and imprisons her in his playroom: a garish and grotesque room under his back yard that acts as both torture chamber and tribute to the high school years he never had, but wished he did. There Riley, as many girls have before her, is forced to act out a perverse pantomime where she is ďKim,Ē the head cheerleader and Otis is star quarterback and her boyfriend (not coincidentally, Kim is the name Otisís sister-in-law, which may help explain some of Elmoís hostility).

inline ImageWhen Riley doesnít come home that night, her parents Will (Daniel Stern) and Kate (Illeana Douglas) call in a kidnapping specialist, the obnoxious Agent Hotchkiss (Jere Burns). While Hotchkiss does everything he can to antagonize Will, Kate and their son Reed (Jared Kusnitz) Riley manages, through a combination of luck and guile, to escape captivity on her own. When she contacts her parents and relays the information she gathered about her ordeal, her mother admonishes her to share details with no one outside her family. Rileyís family gathers household weapons and head to ambush Otis and dish out a little poetic justice. Things donít quite go as planned, however, and the Lawsonís soon have to worry not only about the legal repercussions of their actions but what manner of revenge Otis has in store for them, as well.

inline ImageOtis takes great pains to try and be all things to all people: a retro horror film with an 80ís vibe, serial killer psychodrama, slapstick farce and media satire. Some of these elements are surprisingly well done, but scenes that have any kind of power or resonance are book ended by scenes oozing with ironic distance and smarmy, self-satisfied cleverness making it hard to take anything in the film seriously. Itís this unwillingness to commit, to try and engage the audience rather than poking them in the ribs and assuring them that itís all a joke, which really undermines Otis.

inline ImageOtisí chief problem is inconsistency. There are several parallel plot lines and each has a completely different tone. As the film switches between them it becomes disorienting to find the right emotional reaction to the film. Itís the kind of movie that gives you gruelling scenes of torture and then follows that up with a gag about an extension cord hotwired to manís scrotum and the line: ďLetís cut off his fingers and toes, blend them into a smoothie and make him drink it!Ē It borders on offensive at times, how flippant the film is about serious subjects and how little it trusts its own audience to be able to handle those subjects without a pat on the back assuring us that itís all in fun.

inline ImageThe title characterís drama is the best part of the film but is wildly divergent in tone from the rest of the film. Otis is painted as a tragic figure and scenes that I think are supposed to be funny just seem sad and pathetic. The drama with Rileyís family is pure slapstick zaniness for its own sake, complete with ďwackyĒ music. The protracted sequence of the Lawsonís revenge is gut wrenching in its graphicness. It seems like theyíre also playing these scenes for laughs, but theyíre not really funny. The film also intermittently interrupts itself with satiric news clips taking shots at media coverage of serial killers, but the tone is too over the top and the subject has already been lampooned to death. Oliver Stone had the final word on the subject in 1994 with Natural Born Killers and nobodyís had anything worthwhile to add since.

inline ImageItís an uneasy mix of different approaches that never quite gels. While thatís a flaw that would sink most movies, strangely enough, Otis manages to hold together until the end. Itís helped immeasurably by a far better cast than youíd expect from a Raw Feed movie. Illeana Douglas brings some the acerbic edge sheís known for, even if Daniel Stern just repeats his performance from Very Bad Things. Comedian Kevin Pollack creates a striking and intense character in very few scenes; heís unpleasant but we can still empathize with his frustration at his brother. I was surprised to see Ashley Johnson again after all these years and was even more surprised to find that she was actually quite good in a pretty limited role. Bostin Christopher is fantastic as the eponymous Otis. He doesnít play Otis like a one-dimensional repellent creep, but he brings pathos and sensitivity to the role that it seems like the filmmakers hadnít anticipated.

inline ImageItís also worth mentioning that thereís some truly horrible ADR that is so distracting it derails what should be some of the filmís best moments. The scene where Kate tells Otis exactly what sheíll do to him if he hurts her daughter should have impact, but the viewer is just left slack jawed at how incomprehensibly terribly dubbed the line is. Thereís no excuse for technical shortcomings that glaring in a film you intend to charge people money to see.

inline ImageOtis is a mediocre movie, but while most mediocre films are consistently so from beginning to end, Otis averages out great and bad moments to arrive at its mediocrity. It actually has quite a bit going for it but is never able to capitalize on its stronger elements. Too many fingers in too many pies and too desperately trying to emulate the feel of an 80ís horror flick, it never forges its own identity. Bostin Christopher makes an impression in his debut but his character is out of step with the rest of the film. Itís not exactly a waste of time to watch, but I canít help but feel it was waste of talent to make.


Image Quality

Dr. Giggles was issued on DVD in 2007 as part of Warnerís Twisted Terror boxed set. While it was certainly the best the film have ever been presented, fans of the film (yes, both of them) were dismayed to find that the films theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35 had been cropped to 1.78. While the Blu-ray packaging indicates this has been corrected and the video restored to 2.40, it is in fact presented in the same, cropped version as the DVD. The LaserDisc is still the only way to see Dr. Giggles in its original aspect ratio. I donít have a copy of the LD, so I canít do a direct comparison to tell whatís missing. For what itís worth, the compositions donít look that bad in 1.78, although headroom does seem cramped from time to time.


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Original DVD

Comparison of the picture quality to the DVD version, however, sadly shows that the Blu-ray release of Dr. Giggles doesnít offer the kind of quality upgrade one would expect from an HD release. Colors are a bit brighter, contrast is better and fine detail is improved, but only slightly. The image is still soft, with the same moiring and blocky artifacting in the darker scenes that were present on the DVD. Iím not sure if this was due to a half-assed job being done on creating the HD master or if putting two films on one disc created a shortage of gigglebytes. Considering Dr. Gigglesí very limited appeal, I wouldnít hold my breath for a solo release to answer that question.

Unusual for a direct-to-video film, Otis is presented in 2.35 scope widescreen. Consistent with its homage to 80ís horror films, most of the movie looks like it was shot through a soft focus filter. Brightly lit scenes smear and look blurry amid a perpetual haze and thereís a lot of video noise for something presented in 1080p. The darkly lit scenes fare a little bit better, but thereís still a real lack of the detail youíd expect from a movie in a high def format. Itís really hard to evaluate the video quality since the creative decision is one that tends to obscure details and fade colours. If the filmmakers were trying to make it look as shitty as a VHS tape from the 80ís, they came pretty close. Good goingÖI guess.


Sound

inline ImageThe giggles, at least, see a more noticeable upgrade from the DVD release. The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track is no aural assault but it does offer more expansive range and clearer, crisper dialogue. The score is well represented and there are never any issues with audibility of dialogue. No barnburner, but it gets the job done.

On the other hand, Otis has been given a full-on Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track, though you really wouldnít know it. Itís certainly better than the audio track for Dr. Giggles with the 5 channel sound field offering more ambience than the 2.0 stereo track is capable of. Dialogue is clean and audible and the score and 80ís rock Ďn roll tracks are well represented. Low end is present without ever being obtrusive. Again, nothing to phone home about, but it does its job.


Supplemental Material

No supplements are included for either film.

Prognosis


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Original DVD

When all is said, Iíd by lying if I claimed there wasnít some prurient entertainment value to be had in these Z-grade slasher flicks. I canít find much good to say about either yet I know that, occasionally, a dose of these lame, tacky and tasteless movies will be exactly what the doctor ordered. Given that both films are unspectacular and presented in only passable home video treatment with no supplemental material for either film, this double feature disc is far from a recommend. However, if youíre in the market for one or both of these films on Blu-ray, the low price tag ensures you reasonable value for your money.


Rating

.
Dr. Giggles
Movie - D+
Image Quality - C+*
Sound - C
Supplements - F

Otis
Movie Ė C
Image Quality Ė C-*
Sound Ė C+
Supplements - F



*Because of the quality of the HD format, the clarity, resolution and color depth are inherently a major leap over DVD. Since any Blu-ray will naturally have better characteristics than DVDs, the rating is therefore only in comparison with other Blu-ray titles, rather than home video in general. So while a Blu-ray film may only get a C, it will likely be much better than a DVD with an A.

Technical Info.

Dr. Giggles
  • Colour
  • Running time - 1 hour and 35 minutes
  • Rated R, 18A
  • 1 Disc (Both movies on one disc)
  • Chapter Stops
  • English DTS-HD MA 2.0
  • English SDH subtitles
  • French subtitles
  • Spanish subtitles
Otis
  • Colour
  • Running time - 1 hour and 40 minutes
  • Rated NR, 18A
  • Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
  • English SDH subtitles
  • French subtitles
  • Spanish subtitles

Supplements
  • N/A

 

 

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Old 08-26-2010, 06:21 AM
Moderator
Bizarre that Warner would mess up the aspect ratio a second time on Dr. Giggles. I can't think of any other films they've put out in the last few years that have been similarly cropped.

I definitely agree on that reverse c-section scene...as campy as Giggles is, that scene always stands out as unsettling.
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Old 08-26-2010, 07:06 AM
Stalker
And what a weird pairing of films, too.

"The sicko and the creep-o make for a big UH-OH!"

Indeed.
 
 
Old 08-26-2010, 04:45 PM
Moderator
Yeah, the person who wrote that blurb has to be the same one who wrote that "Hottie McSmarty" line on the Elm Street Blu-ray. Yech.
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Old 08-26-2010, 04:47 PM
Moderator
Oh, and not a single mention of Doug E. Doug in your Giggles review? For shame!
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Old 08-27-2010, 01:13 AM
HackMaster
Hey I wouldnt remove that "Hottie McSmarty" line for anything now - its so corny its classic <:
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Old 08-29-2010, 02:03 AM
Remaking My Soul
Dr. Giggles is underrated. D+? That's shameful!
 
 
Old 09-02-2010, 07:57 AM
I recall seeing a screenshot comparison with the Dr Giggles LD and it showed that the DVD was not cropped, it just had the matte opened up.
 
 
Old 09-10-2010, 02:02 AM
Detroit Hi-on
I also recall seeing those screen comparisons from the LD and DVD showing no extra picture on the sides of the 2.35, just more top and bottom on the 1.78. I wouldn't be shocked if it was shot for 1.33.
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