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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Dr. Giggles / Otis (Blu-ray)
Dr. Giggles / Otis (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros. // Unrated // July 6, 2010 // Region Free
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted July 7, 2010 | E-mail the Author
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The good! Warner's hammering out a bunch of relatively cheap Blu-ray double features.
The should-be-good! There's even a horror double feature this time around.
The really-not-very-good-at-all! It's Otis and Dr. Giggles.

I mean, the pairing makes sense and all. Y'know, they're both campy slasher flicks with stabs at dementedly over-the-top comedy. They're also kinda terrible, and a bunch of us have already suffered through Otis the first time it made the rounds on Blu-ray. With all the horror flicks at Warner's fingertips, why recycle something that's already out in high-def? The House on Haunted Hill remake would've fit in pretty nicely here. They could've dusted off something like The Hills Run Red that for whatever reason skipped past Blu-ray the first time out. There are all sorts of other slashers lurking around in their catalog too, from He Knows You're Alone to Valentine to the original spin on The Hitcher.

But hey...! I'm a reviewer. This is a review. I guess I'll ramble on about what I was sent and save the wish list routine for another day.

Dr. Giggles
This town has a doctor, and his name is Rendell
Stay away from his house 'cause he's the doctor from Hell
He killed all his patients...every last one
And cut out their hearts...purely for fun
So if you're from Moorehigh and you get sick
Fall on your knees and pray you die quick.

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Dr. Giggles is about an escaped lunatic with an IQ hovering somewhere in the stratosphere, and at the end of the day, all he wants to do is perform a heart transplant on some nubile high school chick. I know! Story of my life.

Actually, that's pretty much the plot summary right there. Larry Drake -- who'd made a hell of an impression as an axe-swinging Santa in HBO's Tales from the Crypt a couple years earlier -- stars as Dr. Giggles. Holly Marie Combs plays Jennifer, the ice princess with a heart condition. There's a whole thing about the doc's depraved childhood too, but it pretty much boils down to Doc Giggles gleefully cackling as he chases down Jenn for an hour and a half...and hacking apart pretty much everyone he stumbles across along the way.

I loved the hell out of Dr. Giggles back when I was in high school, but it doesn't hold up so much anymore. This really should've been an easy win too. I mean, a trip to the doctor's office kind of unnerves the best of us as it is, but the movie doesn't build on that fear and discomfort the way that Corbin Bernsen -- another L.A. Law alum! -- would a few years later in The Dentist. For so much of the movie, Dr. Giggles is an awfully routine slasher. Too many of the kills are bland and bloodless, it doesn't really bother with any suspenseful setpieces, and a lot of the splatter is sloshed around off-screen. The only thing to set a lot of 'em apart from the rest of the slasher crowd is some doctorly one-liners like "take two and call me in the
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The frustrating thing is that when Dr. Giggles is on, it's such an inhuman amount of fun. When we first spot Doc Giggles as a kid, he's eviscerating a teddy bear, and then the camera eases back to reveal a couple dozen stuffed animals with their tummies stitched up. Awesome. We see a bloody, naked seven year old clawing his way out of his mother's corpse with a scalpel (!!!) like something out of Alien. Again...? Awesome. This is a flick that sets out to showcase such a demented sense of humor -- I mean, one girl is smothered to death with this massive, cartoonishly oversized Band-Aid, and another has a thermometer rammed clean through her head and is told "leave it in there for at least a minute" -- but aside from the flashbacks and a couple of imaginative kills, all the best stuff is saved for the last half hour.

The movie's littered with so much flat, one-note sleepwalking from the likes of Glenn Quinn and Holly Marie Combs, there aren't too many surprises throughout the first hour, and even the post-mortem one-liners from the doc are pretty lame and uninspired. The best thing the first hour has going for it is Larry Drake and his squealing cackle, even though he's saddled with some really lousy material. It's kind of funny how much Dr. Giggles owes to the first couple of Halloween flicks, with some shots carried over almost verbatim. The last half-hour, which comes complete with two distinct climaxes, almost salvages the rest of Dr. Giggles: wickedly funny and wildly imaginative. Why couldn't the rest of the flick be this great?

Even though The Dentist doesn't have anyone getting strangled with a blood pressure pump or some floozy fellating a saxophone, it really takes advantage of its premise and is so much more deliriously gory to boot. Dr. Giggles doesn't aim all that high, most of the hacking-'n-slashing is bloodless and paint-by-numbers, and it takes too long to get to the best stuff. It's worth another rental, I guess, but whatever fuzzy memories you have of fishing Dr. Giggles out of the $0.99 bin at that underlit video store down the road is better than the movie itself. Rent It.

"What's the blender for?"
"Well, I thought your dad could cut his fingers and toes off and we could blend them into a Smoothie and make him drink it."
"Thinking outside the box...Mom, I like it."

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Otis (Bostin Christopher) has it kinda rough. He's over forty now, the guy's pushing three bills, he's stuck with a dead-end job slinging pizzas for a few bucks an hour... All he really wants is to relive his glory days: to be the big football hero again, pin a corsage on the foxy homecoming queen, and dance under an oversized disco ball at the prom. Only...oops! Here's the thing: those aren't his glory days -- they're his jackassy older brother's (Kevin Pollak) -- and the 'cheerleaders' he picks up are random high schoolers on his delivery route. Otis keeps each of his girlfriends shackled in an underground torture chamber, and when they don't play along...? Slice. Chop. Splatter splatter.

Next up on the hit parade is Riley (Ashley Johnson), a clean-scrubbed, virginal, all-around adorable good girl. Her folks (Daniel Stern and Illeana Douglas) are distraught but helpless when she's snatched, and the feds (headed up by Jere Burns; fuckin' Kirk from Dear John!) couldn't find a ten foot dick on a hen. Riley's impish kid brother (Jared Kusnitz) gets it in his head that they should just shrug off the cops and track down the bastard themselves. The Lawsons do eventually get a heads-up where Otis lives, and they decide to go all Last House on the Left on his dumpy white ass, only...y'know, this is supposed to be a black comedy, I guess, so things don't go so much according to plan.

Look, I know Otis has a pretty solid following online, but...hell if I can figure out why. As much of my life as I've wasted watching horror-comedies, only a tiny handful actually work; most of 'em are agonizingly unfunny, not creepy, not disturbing...just a colossal waste of time. 'Same goes for Otis, which tries to lean on a campy, almost aggressively quirky sense of humor but splits its head open slipping on all that flop sweat. I mean, it's bogged down by dialogue like "Rectum? Damn near killed 'im!" One running gag has the double-digit IQ agent on the case forgetting the family's last name. Oh no! There are stabs at black comedy like a severed arm spilling out of a garbage bag, but...c'mon, do something clever with it. Otis never really goes balls-out with....well, anything. For a torture porn spoof with a nailgun, a Kentucky fried rectum, a hair curler, a five iron, and a bunch of stuff the Lawsons lug around but don't actually use...I mean, why are they there? This is a horror-comedy: do something funny or do something fucked-up. Don't flash forward forty minutes and then say, "geez, we sure did a number on this guy." Its gags seem to be lopped off halfway through the setup, the feds talk about what a butcher Otis is but we never really see it... I just don't see the point.

So much of Otis' budget went to lining up that kinda-sorta recognizable cast and
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licensing a hell of a lot of songs for the soundtrack that there...y'know, wasn't much leftover to actually shoot the movie. The low-rent lighting just highlights how cheap the whole thing looks, there's not really any gore or splatter ("uncut" == marketing bullshit), and the only slick camerawork anywhere in here is a pan around a Trans-Am on "prom night".

Okay, so I'll try to say something nice. Otis does sport a pretty solid soundtrack: The Talking Heads' "The Great Cure" plays over the opening titles, and scattered throughout the flick are "52 Girls" by the B-52s, Quiet Riot's cover of "Cum On Feel The Noize", "I Ran" by A Flock of Seagulls, "Don't Fear the Reaper" by Blue Öyster Cult, and...nice!..."Gut Feeling" by Devo. The actual score is pretty worthless, though, feeling like cues half-assedly lifted from some stock library. They range from jangly new wave guitars to generic Weather Channel wah-funk, and the music hardly ever bothers to match whatever's happening on-screen.

Otis is the sort of dreck that bubbles to the surface whenever someone deliberately sets out to make a camp classic, and I hated every desperate, isn't-that-clever-isn'titisn'titisn't-it elbow-to-the-ribs frame of its agonizing, bloated 100 minute runtime. In fairness, pretty much every other review floating around raves about how clever and stylish Otis is, but...fucking yikes, I really don't see anything redeeming in here. Skip It.

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was shot on mediocre high-def video cameras, saddling the movie with kind of a chintzy, overly digital look. The soft, diffused lighting saps away a lot of the clarity and detail, and video noise buzzes around the screen for most of the flick too. Even worse, the scope image is awfully flat, lacking any depth or dimensionality. Yeah, I'm sure this Blu-ray disc is a step up over the DVD, but it's kinda lackluster even for a direct-to-video horror flick.

Dr. Giggles should be presented in scope too, but the movie hasn't been framed that way on home video since the days of Laserdisc. Nope, this Blu-ray disc instead reformats the movie to an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The compositions don't feel as if there's a lot of dead space at the top and bottom of the frame, so is it center-cropped, maybe? If it is zoomed in, that'd certainly explain why the image is so extremely soft. There's a very modest boost in clarity over what I'd expect out of a DVD, but detail and definition are still both really weak. Dimly-lit interiors suffer the worst -- and that's a pretty hefty chunk of the flick -- often looking muddy and murky. On the upside, black levels are pretty punchy, and those distinctively '80s fluourescent threads leap off the screen. I couldn't spot any hiccups in the compression, and the source used isn't marred by any speckling of note. I don't have Warner's DVD from a few years back to a direct comparison, but I'm kinda doubtful this is much of a compelling upgrade.

Dr. Giggles
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sports a stereo DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, and I could tell right off the bat that this is lossless. It's revealing enough to show how limited the original elements are, though; I definitely got the sense that I'm hearing exactly what's on the master tapes, but the recording of the dialogue still sounds flat and dated, and there's no heft to the low-end at all. You get just about the same amount of bass you would if you'd flipped off the receiver and pumped the audio through the built-in speakers on your TV instead. I still think it's a faithful presentation and all, but that doesn't mean it's not weak.

Warner has tacked on a lossless soundtrack for Otis as well. Toggling back and forth between the 16-bit Dolby TrueHD track and the standard issue Dolby Digital 5.1 mix from the last BD, I really couldn't pick out much of a difference at all. The mix is awfully mediocre; sound effects are all kind of mushed together, and the dialogue is flat and really sibilant. Surround use is kind of vanilla too, and the rears are mostly reserved for different notes in the score ping-ponging from one channel to the next. Otis also loses a few audio options compared to its initial bow on Blu-ray. No Spanish or Portugese dubs this time around, and the subtitle streams in Portuguese and some flavor of Chinese have both been axed too.

There aren't any dubs, commentaries, or downmixes on this Blu-ray disc. Aside from one lossless soundtrack for each half of the double feature, all that's left here are subtitles in English (SDH), French, and Spanish.


Warner's last DVD of Dr. Giggles didn't bother with any extras either, so everything's level there. Otis piled on an audio commentary, an alternate ending, deleted scenes, and a making-of featurette on its DVD release. None of those made it onto its initial Blu-ray release, and none of 'em are on here either, despite almost 15 gigs of empty space left on the disc.

The Final Word
Otis has a tiny cult following bobbing around, but hell if I know why. I'm about as much of a schlocky camp-horror apologist as they come, but Otis still strikes me as borderline-unwatchable. Dr. Giggles lobs out a few cacklingly depraved moments, yeah, but it's not nearly as much fun as I remember...pretty routine and bloodless with a bunch of goofy "take two and call me in the morning" flavored one-liners. Neither half of this double feature is really any good, but at least Dr. Giggles has enough nostalgia on its side to be worth a rental. I really wouldn't recommend shelling out any money to buy this Blu-ray disc, tho'.

Wait, I Have One Screenshot Left Over
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