Code Red // 1990 // 87 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // January 15th, 2010
The First & Only Basketball Horror-Slasher-Comedy is Finally Unleashed on Home Video.
Just like real judges in real courts, we at Verdict don't take kindly to being lied to. I'm a bit put off by Night of the Dribbler, which clearly promises to be the "first & only basketball horror-slasher-comedy" on home video. This could not be farther from the truth. Although I can attest to the unique quality of Night of the Dribbler, it's not an experience I can recommend.
Before I discuss just how this film fails to live up to its hype, Night of the Dribbler concerns the fate of the Watergate Plumbers, a basketball team who keeps losing their star players to a masked killer. Sounds like a recipe for a great slasher, right? If only.
So, let's examine the film's claims in detail:
* Basketball. Okay, starting out the gate everything seems fine; this film certainly features a lot of basketball. In fact, it seems like roughly ninety-seven percent of the film takes place in the same high school-looking gymnasium, where we're treated to shot after shot after shot of a bunch of actors trying to look like they're not very good at basketball. Usually in basketball-related movies we get a couple of scenes of a game, the significant plays, and the final shot. Not in Night of the Dribbler, oh no. We get all kinds of footage of basketball, and when we're not watching basketball we're watching the coach talk to the players courtside, or the announcer announcing the game. This is a basketball movie with entirely too much basketball.
* Horror. Here's where the lies start. There's not a single, solitary moment of horror in the entire 87 minutes. That is, unless we're supposed to be horrified by the low budget, the iffy acting, or the fact that this film has actually seen the light of day. If not, then there's nothing that could traditionally be considered horrific in the film. There's no real violence, no gore, and, even though the killer's mask is kind of cool-looking, no really threatening killer, either.
* Slasher. Nope, no luck here either. If Night of the Dribbler is a slasher, then so are many episodes of Scooby-Doo. Sure, a guy in a mask goes around killing people in a few clever ways (I like the idea of razor wire that slices off a guy's hands when he goes to dunk, but it doesn't work when the scene is entirely bloodless), but there's absolutely no tension, no mystery, and no real interest in who the killer might be. There's some slasher potential here, but it's hopelessly neutered from the start.
* Comedy. Here's the biggest joke of them all: Night of the Dribbler just isn't that funny. It sort of aims for a Zucker-style comedy with sight gags like having a basketball player impersonate Elvis, along with a whole collection of truly horrendous puns. Some of it might even have worked if the actors and the director had worked on the timing, but there are too many pauses, like the actors are working live and waiting for laughs that just don't come.
There you have it. Night of the Dribbler is not the first basketball, horror-slasher-comedy film, even if it is unleashed on home video for the first time. Apparently we have comedian/impersonator Fred Travalena to thank for Night. He plays three roles (including that of the coach), and it was his input that generally kept the film bloodless, since he didn't want to appear in a traditional slasher flick. He strikes me as someone who could be very funny in other contexts, but his cheesy shtick just doesn't fly in this bloodless little monster of a film.
Despite the fact that the film is hard to watch and should have probably stayed buried, Code Red have done a fine job with this release. The film is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio per the director's preference, and it looks pretty good for a low-budget film shot over a decade ago. The audio isn't quite as nice, with some dynamics problems but overall it's a listenable track. The main extra is a commentary with Mr. Travalena and Scot Spiegel moderated by Marc Edward Hueck of Beat the Geeks. They're totally willing to make fun of the movie while discussing its production and the track is much funnier than the film really deserves. There's also a short interview with George Thomas, who played "Hi Top" where he discusses his role in the film. The disc finishes off with Code Red trailers, including the one for Night of the Dribbler.
If you have a strong constitution, Night of the Dribbler might fall into "so bad it's good" territory with enough adult beverages, but for the average viewer it really isn't worth a look.
Night of the Dribbler is guilty of committing a host of personal fouls.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Code Red
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Not Rated