driller killer
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three stars


directed by: Abel Ferrara
starring:"Jimmy Laine"(aka Abel Ferrara),
Carolyn Marz and Baybi Day

(back of video blurb):

"As the screaming drill closes in on its victim you don't really believe what you are seeing...until blood starts pouring and another tearing scream joins the drill.

A steel stomach is required to watch the final scenes of mayhem."

choice dialogue:

"Hey! What have you got in your hand Mr?...
A drill!...Hey, what are you? A fix-it man?"

slash with panache?

       Abel Ferrara's debut film may not owe a great deal to, the previous years', HALLOWEEN, but it is a 'psycho-thriller' none the less. In fact THE DRILLER KILLER is more a post-punk variation on Polanski's REPULSION (1965)- the US promo artworkrabbit carcass in Fererra's film is an obvious homage of sorts. A, largely successful, character study and portrayal of one man's descent into madness by way of the underground explosion that was the 'cinema of Transgression'. The film is still infamous, along with such others like I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE as one of the 'bogeymen' of British video. Still not legally available in this country in any form, unlike other banned titles which have been granted certificates in the last decade, albeit in severely mutilated versions. THE DRILLER KILLER often surprises and confounds expectations on first viewing. Instead of being a relatively polished exploitation piece or a slice of gory-campness, it is in fact closer to the 'art-house' than the 'grind-house'. The violence is often explicit, no more so than on the cover shot for the video, but it is not an effects driven movie. It is one of those films where the obvious low budget is actually a help rather than a hindrance. It has a grimy and believable feel which is something often missing from the genre.

       Ferrara plays 'Reno' (using the pseudonym Jimmy Laine), an artist struggling to finish, what he conceives to be, his masterpiece painting. One that he will have to sell to keep his head above water both financially and to prevent a slide into insanity. He shares his flat with two women, with which he has an ambiguous alternative video coversexual relationship. He is pushed to the edge when a punk band move into his apartment building and practice continuously- 24 hours a day. Ferrara uses overwhelmingly mundane everyday things to drive his character to the edge. Like Chinese water torture; the repetitive riffing of the band and the nagging 'New Yawk' nasal drawl of one of the women, constantly changing her mind where she wants a hole drilled, mirrors the grating, incessant whine of the portable drill Reno uses on his victims. The effect is much the same as the unsettling way Marilyn Burn's screams constantly throughout the end of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974)- un-nerving the viewer. Unable, or unwilling, to deal with the grind of daily life and his apparent alienation from those closest to him. He slaughters the homeless drunks that litter the sidewalks, possibly because of his unbalanced revulsion that he will become like them if his life continues to slide. A repressed sexuality or perhaps impotence is hinted at. Reno is never seen having sex with either of his flat mates and the, oft repeated, hallucination of him being sprayed in blood whilst pumping the drill at someone unseen has obvious Freudian connotations.

       The film is a very effective exercise in nihilism and conveys a more realistic feeling of sleaze and hopelessness in the Big Apple at the end of the 70's and dawn of the 80's, despite its budget, than either MANIAC (1980) or THE NEW YORK RIPPER (1982). Ferrara went on to explore similar themes in his next film MS. 45 (aka ANGEL OF VENGEANCE) (1980) and THE BAD LIEUTENANT (199 ).

BODYCOUNT 11  bodycount!   female:0 / male:11

       1) Male has chest drilled through
       2) Male drilled through head
       3) Male killed in subway with drill
       4) Male drilled through chest
       5) Male drilled through back
       6) Male drilled to death
       7) Male drilled to death (again)...well, he is THE DRILLER KILLER!
       8) Male has forehead drilled through
       9) Male crucified and then drilled to death
      10) Male impaled on door with drill
      11) Male drilled through back