`Dr. Giggles' Is Dreadful

X "Dr. Giggles," with Larry Drake, Holly Marie Combs, Glenn Quinn, Cliff De Young, Keith Diamond, and Richard Bradford. Directed by Manny Coto, from a screenplay by Manny Coto and Graeme Whifler. Alderwood, Newmark, Gateway Center 8, Lewis & Clark, Aurora Cinema, Kirkland Parkplace, Overlake, Everett Mall. "R" - restricted, due to gore, violence, profanity.

The only thing original in "Dr. Giggles" - about a psychotic doctor (Larry Drake) who escapes a mental institution to resume his belovedly departed father's explicitly unhealthy rampage of serial killings - is the freakish instruments that the pun-filled physician totes around in his bag of dirty tricks.

These stainless-steel killing tools (care for a foot-long speculum, anyone?) allow all varieties of gruesome dispatch - the staple diet of contemporary horror buffs, most of whom have skulls that contain a congealed, pudding-like substance that barely resembles a brain. Only the most comatose among them are likely to enjoy this alleged attempt at horror-comedy.

The film doesn't even merit a brief synopsis. Suffice it to say the cute young heroine (Holly Marie Combs) satisfies the prerequisites of the gore-flick survivor: even with a bad heart (which Dr. Giggles would love to remove sans anesthetic), she manages to escape the doctor's grungy cellar operating room - a dungeon-type set that is such an obvious rip-off from "The Silence of the Lambs" that it would be laughable if it weren't so creatively pathetic.

Ditto for the pointless, painfully unamusing jokes spewn out by Drake, who instantly tarnishes his fine work as Benny, the developmentally disabled office clerk in "L.A. Law." The doctor's incessant giggling is supposed to represent the outlet of childhood psychological trauma, but don't expect "Dr. Giggles" to give Drake's performance a sympathetic or tragic dimension. The film is as shallow as a Saharan mud puddle and twice as filthy.

Oh, but there is one good joke here, albeit one not found in the film itself. It is the meanest, cruelest, most ironically outrageous joke imaginable, and it is told in the film's uproariously hilarious press notes: Universal will be watching the "Dr. Giggles" box office returns with relish, because they fully intend this $7 million cheapie to be the first film in a new horror-comedy franchise. The comic-book version is already on the stands. Can the "Dr. Giggles" toy surgery tools be far behind?