Night of the Dribbler

Night of the Dribbler doesn’t deserve a Pun

To say that this movie is bad, gives it too much credit. It’s dumb, spiteful, and hollow.

Night of the Dribbler (1990) is a comedy slasher about Stan Bates (Gregory Calpakis), a high school basketball player. His team can’t seem to win a game, mostly because all of it’s star players keep getting killed by a stranger in a tracksuit and basketball mask.

I’m just going to spoil the ending now. One, because this movie isn’t worth seeing anyway. And two, it will allow me to more fully explain what this movie does wrong without having to keep any secrets.

Stan’s father turns out to be the killer because he wants his son to be the star player on the team. And if that seems stupid that’s because it is.

Night of the Dribbler
Stan’s father as the Dribbler

Night of the Dribbler (1990) gets many things wrong. It’s lighting is dim. It’s soundtrack cheap. The acting is phoned in from an area with no service. But the thing that makes it insufferable is how it treats its material.

What I mean by this is that the film is lampooning teen sports movies and slashers. The problem is that the writer, Maurice Thevenet, clearly hates these genres.

The 1980s was saturated with teen sports and slasher films. Some went on to be classics like Teen Wolf (1985) and Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and others faded into obscurity. But Teen Wolf (1985) and Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) were clever. They were self aware in premise, but in execution they were played straight enough to make their comedy funny, their suspense thrilling, and their satire biting.

Night of the Dribbler (1990) doesn’t play things straight.

Night of the Dribbler
One of Stan’s teammates about to die

To suspend our disbelief about a basketball masked murderer, we have to have identifiable and likable characters.That doesn’t happen. Stan is just our wonder bread protagonist. Stan’s girlfriend is goth. Coach is every contrived locker room speech. His teammates can only be differentiated by their hairstyles. And that’s not all bad in itself. Sometimes flat characters can be used to comedic affect, but what makes this irredeemable is that that’s the point. Isn’t it funny that these characters aren’t characters.

What’s worse is that it tries to pass this off as clever meta-humor.

For Example.

Fred Travalena, who plays the coach also plays the detective and the games commentator, Dick Airhead. And that’s the joke. We are supposed to see that it’s Fred with dyed hair or a fake mustache.

Night of the Dribbler
Fred Travalena as Dick Airhead

I do have to concede that Night of the Dribbler (1990) did get one laugh out of me. At the very end after the dad is led away in handcuffs and we’re left with Stan and his girlfriend. She tells him she’s sorry the killer was his dad. He nods and says, “good thing I was adopted.” He winks at the camera and spins a basketball on his finger. It’s one final middle finger to the audience.

I think this scene sums up the movie best. Stan being adopted wasn’t introduced earlier and it doesn’t care. It doesn’t care about character integrity or if you like them. It expects you to think it’s clever for not doing so. And that doesn’t work.

Love. Love of a genre, of a trope, of a character is what makes a movie clever. It’s what makes strong satire, it’s what makes suspense tense, and it’s what makes a movie worth watching.



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