Bad Medicine: Dr. Giggles (1992, directed by Manny Coto)

In 1957, the citizens of the town of Moorheigh discovered that their local doctor was doing experiments on his patients, removing their hearts and using them to try to bring his dead wife back to life.  The townspeople responded by executing Dr. Rendell and chanting a poem that goes, “This town has a doctor named Rendell/Stay away from his house because he’s the doctor from Hell.”  They would have killed Dr. Rendell’s son too, except that Evan, Jr. escaped by sewing himself up in his mother’s corpse and then later using a scalpel to cut his way out.

Thirty-five years later, Evan, Jr. (Larry Drake) returns to Moorheigh, looking to get revenge on the town.  Because of his evil laugh, he is now known as Dr. Giggles and he has a medical-related one liner for every occasion.  When Dr. Giggles learns that Jennifer (Holly Marie Combs) needs a heart monitor, Dr. Giggles decides to stalk her while killing all of her interchangeable friends.  Dr. Giggles says that he wants to give her a new heart, preferably one that he’s ripped out of someone else’s body.  Jennifer is not very appreciative.

Dr. Giggles was meant to be a franchise started, in the fashion of the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th films.  It was a franchise that would never be because there wasn’t much that could be done with Dr. Giggles that wasn’t done during the first film.   Larry Drake was a good actor but, other than the scene where he used a scalpel to cut himself out of a dead body, there was nothing about Dr. Giggles that distinguished from all the other horror movie slasher.  He wasn’t a dream weaver like Freddy or indestructible like Jason.  He was just a dude dressed like a doctor who giggled too much.

For a better film featuring Larry Drake as a villain, do yourself a favor and watch Sam Raimi’s Darkman.

Hallmark Review: Love’s Complicated (2016, dir. Jerry Ciccoritti)


Last night at the Oscars we had a comedy bit where black actors were inserted into movies that were nominated for awards. They took somewhat humorous shots at The Martian and Joy. Then The Danish Girl came up. I haven’t seen it yet and I’ve heard it’s god awful. None of that matters. They inserted comedic actor Tracy Morgan into the movie, put him in a dress, then told us to laugh at him because he was a man in a dress who was being the black version of the trans woman from the film. Then for more shits and giggles, they actually had him eat a danish. That was vile and despicable. I have been laughed at for something as simple as wearing tights. I can’t possibly imagine walking outside in a dress right now, and have even less courage to do so after last night’s display of kicking an even smaller minority to the curb while supposedly trying to send a message about having another minority appear more often in films. While I seriously doubt she would have done it, having Laverne Cox of Orange Is The New Black fame, who is both black and trans, do that might have actually sent a positive message. Thank you very much Oscars for making it clear that not only was it worth dragging on the blacks in film thing so long that it started to feel like a joke itself, but for giving all trans women a punch in the face. Much appreciated.

That right there is an example of the central theme of this movie. Not avoiding conflict. That can be for a number of reasons. Not letting other people make decisions that should be yours since it is your life. Not being paralyzed by a fear of conflict when facing it could lead to a much needed reconciliation. Not letting other people treat you like trash, but standing up for yourself instead. It can also be something as simple as saying, “No, you have no right to do that. I want the refund I’m owed.” The book this movie is based on is even called My Life As A Doormat. So how the hell did this movie end up being called Love’s Complicated? I’m guessing Hallmark has a quota to meet of movies with “love” in the title. Honestly, love barely is a part of the movie.

The movie begins by quickly showing us Leah (Holly Marie Combs), who is a writer, at home before cutting to a radio station to introduce us to Cinco (Ben Bass). He isn’t a shock jock or a woman hating radio personality. I think the best way to describe him is as a debater. He is someone who isn’t afraid to express his opinion, but we will get to his fear of conflict issue later. During this opening credit sequence it cuts back and forth between them. We find out one useful piece of information here, and that is that Leah isn’t a big fan of his. We’ll find out later that he didn’t give a favorable review to her last book. And segue!


We are now with Leah and Catherine Disher from The Good Witch. Hmm…I think there’s an in-joke here. She is told her book needs serious work. Basically spice things up by adding some conflict. The very thing that is the Source of the problems in her life.


I love that Leah has one of those keyboards similar to the old IBM keyboards. Those things are very satisfying to type on. It makes sense that a writer would have one. I could mention the roommate here, but she’s a minor character. She’s what I call a nudger character in Hallmark movies. A character who isn’t unimportant, but is really there to show up occasionally to nudge the main character in the right direction.


Now we meet Leah’s boyfriend Edward (Randal Edwards). As you can see, it looks like Leah just wishes she could freeze him in place so she could get up without having to confront him. Anyways, the two of them soon go off to a party where she insists on wearing a red dress that he isn’t so happy with. Now for plot I guess, here’s Cinco just hanging out in the flowers to run into Leah at the party.


He actually tells her to throw the wine in his face because of his bad review of her book. Of course her being non-confrontational means she doesn’t. Although, I bet she would have liked to make him explode if she could. She’ll come around eventually.

Phew! Three references to Charmed should be enough.

Next for reasons that are beyond me, Leah’s boyfriend gives her a coupon to a conflict management course. I’d say just for plot, but Edward is really odd in this so I buy that he gives this to her, and then doesn’t show up because he meant it to be just for her.


She goes, and of course for again reasons, Cinco is there. There also are a few other people there including a married couple named Robert (Brad Borbridge) and Glenda (Precious Chong). Sorry, I wasn’t able to avoid that witch reference. It’s in the movie after all. Although, I’m still not sure why Catherine Disher’s character is named J.R. I’m really not sure what a reference to Dallas is doing here, but okay.

Believe it or not, that’s all the setup that’s necessary for this movie. She keeps going back to the group and never tells them Edward is a boyfriend till the end of the film. She does learn to not be afraid of conflict, which was systemic in her case. She helps Cinco in turn to take a chance and visit his father who he hasn’t spoken to in awhile. Instead of fearing a confrontation, he just gives him a hug. In his case it works. At the end of the film, he and his father, who both love to argue, are having a lively debate on the radio. The other people in the class come around too. In the end, she breaks it off with Edward, writes a book called My Life As A Doormat, and winds up with Cinco.


As I hope you can tell, the love part is incidental to the story of overcoming a fear of conflict. I like that the film was clearly done on the cheap, but they told a story that didn’t require more money in order to tell. I appreciate it when a film molds itself to the production constraints rather than feeling like it’s running into money walls. That said, there are several times when it feels like the movie thinks we have spent more time with the characters than we actual have. I would give it a marginal recommendation.

Now since I feel better than when I wrote my last Hallmark review, here are the normal things you’ve come accustomed to seeing in my reviews.


I actually like this fake computer screen. It’s cartoony sure, but it has the right elements.


This shot tells us that at least this part was done in Sudbury, Ontario. I believe this is the first Hallmark movie I’ve seen shot there.


This shot though, is from Minnesota.

However, the movie either doesn’t mention it at all, or makes very little fuss about where it’s supposed to take place. It’s not like so many Hallmark movies that really try to convince you it’s the US when it’s Canada.

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #91: A Reason to Believe (dir by Douglas Triola)

A Reason to BelieveThroughout the late 90s, a rather obscure film from 1995 called A Reason To Believe used to show up on Cinemax fairly frequently. I was 11 when I first saw it.  At the time, I was indulging in my rebellious streak by secretly staying up past my bed time and sneaking into the living room, where I would watch whatever forbidden sordidness what being aired.  Because I didn’t want to wake anyone up, I would watch with the volume turned almost all the way down.  Hence, when I first saw A Reason To Believe, I literally had to sit less than an inch away from the TV just so I could hear the dialogue.

And I remember that, at the age of 11, A Reason To Believe really blew me away.  I thought it was one of the greatest films that I had ever seen.  The fact that the film involved college students made me feel like I was both watching a movie for adults and getting a preview of what life would be like when I was older.  All of the sex and the language made me feel like I was getting away with something while I was watching it.  At one point, there was a shot of Sharon (played by Holly Marie Combs) putting a condom on Wesley’s (Danny Quinn) erect penis and I found myself glancing over my shoulder, convinced that at any minute a responsible adult was going to enter the living room and say, “WHAT ARE YOU WATCHING!?”

So, when I recently rewatched A Reason To Believe, I did so wondering how the film would hold up now that I’m an adult.  Not surprisingly, a good deal of the film now seemed to be heavy-handed.  For every good line in the script, there was a line that was way too obvious.  Characters who were funny when I was 11 — like dorky stoner Potto (Keith Coogan) — now seemed to be annoying.  And, of course, my more experienced eyes immediately realized that Holly Marie Combs was putting that condom on a prosthetic penis.

And yet, A Reason To Believe is still fairly effective and probably deserves to be better known than it actually is.  Usually, I refuse to give extra credit for good intentions but I’m willing to make an exception for A Reason To Believe because the film deals with a subject that, now more than ever, needs to be dealt with.

Charlotte (Allison Smith) is a student at an unnamed generic university.  When her boyfriend, Wesley (Danny Quinn), has to go away for the weekend, he asks Allison not to go to Viking, an annual party thrown by his fraternity.  Charlotte promises that she won’t but then goes anyway.  At Viking, she hangs out with Wesley’s best friend, Jim (Jay Underwood).  Jim is also dating Allison’s friend, Judith (Kim Walker).  Realizing that she’s had too much to drink, Allison attempts to leave the party but instead, Jim leads her into his bedrom.  He kisses her.  She says no but Jim forces himself on her.  Repeating all the old bullshit excuses (i.e., Charlotte was flirting with him, all girls say no when they mean yes, and all the rest) Jim seems to truly believe that the sex was consensual.  Charlotte knows it was rape.

At first, Charlotte doesn’t want to face what happened.  When she finally does go to the university administration and reports what happened, the frat — including her boyfriend — comes together to protect Jim.  Charlotte’s friends — like Judith — abandon her.  Her only supporter is Linda (Georgia Emelin), an anti-fraternity campus activist who is more interested in Charlotte as a means to an end than as a human being.

A Reason To Believe held up fairly well.  Yes, it’s heavy-handed and a lot of the dialogue is too spot-on and literal.  I could have done without the scenes featuring Obba Babatunde as a bombastic professor.  However, Allison Smith and Jay Underwood both gave excellent performances in the two lead roles and the film deserves a lot of credit for not shying away from just how misogynistic the fraternity/sorority culture can truly be.  Ultimately, flaws and all, it’s a valuable, realistic, and angry portrayal of rape culture and it deserves to be seen for that reason.

It can currently be viewed on YouTube.