Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Movie Review: Driller Killer (1979)

Driller Killer
DRILLER KILLER - gritty cult favorite slasher flick - DVD Image

Written by Nicholas St. John
Starring & Directed by Abel Ferrara

Reno is a Manhattan artist with a lot on his plate: The bills are due, he's late on rent, and his art dealer is pressuring him to finish his 'masterpiece'--a large painting of a buffalo with big black eyes that the camera seems drawn to like they were black holes. If all this weren't enough, an obnoxious garage punk rock band called--I kid you not--Tony Coca-Cola and the Roosters (whose favorite song seems to have stolen the riff from the Spy Hunter theme) have moved into the apartment directly above him, and their constant (and much-needed) practicing is, to say the least, a bit distracting.

Now, Reno was obviously not the most stable of people to begin with--artists seldom are--and he wasn't living in the most stable of environments (damn near every scene has some sort of abuse, be it mental, emotional or physical) but he didn't step over the line into full-fledged lunatic until seeing an infomercial that changed his life forever. No, not the PedEgg...the Porto-Pak Battery Pack ($19.95!) that allows you to take your powertools with you anywhere. And just like any painter would, he thought to himself, "I've got to have one!"

Once the paintings start talking, there's pretty much no turning back. It's drill or be drilled, and so Reno takes his trusty Porto-Pak to the streets, where he dispatches a number of people who unfortunately left their tools at home.

The director (also the lead actor) does his best to capture the grit and grime and madness that was New York in those days, shooting in the shadows, gutters and tenements that he knew and perhaps loved. Many of the scenes are quite vicious and gruesome, which lead to its standing as a "Video Nasty" during the 1980s.

Unfortunately, the score is a mess of amateur-sounding punk, synth sound effects, and muzak. Much of the film seems padded with long shots of the band practicing, and an inexplicable (but completely forgivable) lesbian shower scene.

If not for this and its conscious attempts to be so edgy, this film may have gone beyond cult-favorite arthouse-meets-grindhouse-exploitation and ventured into the truly disturbing category populated by Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. As it stands, if Taxi Driver and Texas Chainsaw Massacre had a bastard child raised by the Repo Man, it probably would have looked something like this.

Well worth a watch if you're looking for a darker alternative to Bucket of Blood, Color Me Blood Red, and others of that ilk.

96 Minutes
United States

"What are you, out of your mind? Are you crazy?"


  1. I went into Driller Killer expecting a thoughtless, trashy slasher in the vein of Drive In Massacre and the like, but I was very pleasantly surprised with the darker, psychological aspects of the film. Much better than expected, far from a masterpiece, but enjoyable to say the least!

  2. The scene where Ferrara eats the pizza is one of the nastiest in the film...


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