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Movie Reviews : ‘Night Game’ a Trip to Slasherville

Four years after directing Geraldine Page to an Oscar in the poignant Horton Foote drama “A Trip to Bountiful,” director Peter Masterson crashes out of type with a slasher movie set in Galveston, Tex., about a maniacal hook-handed stalker who kills beautiful blondes on a lonely, deserted stretch of beach immediately after Houston Astros victories.

In “Night Game” (citywide), helicopters relentlessly circle skyscrapers. The police--regular guys with gamy home lives--are puzzled, angry. They scream, bash each other on the noggin in frustration. Every time they arrive on the scene to investigate, two or three of them have to be pulled apart from strangling each other in a wild melee.

Small wonder they’re frustrated. The crazed killer has so little respect for their intelligence that he sends messages of apology to local sportswriters whenever he botches up his own serial pattern. And, meanwhile, beautiful young blondes--including the petulant fiancee (Karen Young) of investigating police Lt. Mike Seaver (Roy Scheider)--keep trotting down that lonely beach like lemmings, or wandering down dark streets, or disappearing into the crazy house--always in oblivious ignorance that the Houston Astros are about to win another one.

There’s no way to make this work--short of finding a new Ed Wood Jr. (“Plan 9 From Outer Space”) to mess it up amusingly. “Night Game” answers the burning question: Would bad, improbably plotted slasher movies be any better if they had humor, strong characters and pungent dialogue instead of incessant car-crashes and blood-letting? The answer, surprisingly, is no.

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There’s one near-excellent performance, though: Richard Bradford’s sly, sodden, dyspeptic old police chief. It’s a shame that directors like Masterson and actors like Bradford have to get hornswoggled into nonsense like “Night Game” (MPAA-rated R for sex, language and violence), when there’s wonderful Texas material lying around just aching to be made.


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