The Driller Killer (1979)

DVD Cover (Cult Epics 2-Disc Limited Edition)
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Overall Rating 57%
Overall Rating
Ranked #3,828
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An artist slowly goes insane while struggling to pay his bills, work on his paintings, and care for his two female roommates, which leads him taking to the streets of New York after dark and randomly killing derelicts with a power drill. --IMDb
Abel Ferrara
Abel Ferrara
Carolyn Marz
Carolyn Marz
Baybi Day
Baybi Day
Harry Schultz
Harry Schultz
Alan Wynroth
Alan Wynroth
Review by Chad
Added: February 09, 2007
There are certain movies that, upon popping them into your DVD player, you just "know" that you're going to love... or at least, you know you should. Take Casablanca or Citizen Kane, for instance: if you haven't seen them, you're probably going to go into them with expectations of being blown away due to their reputation as being "the best movies ever" and the fact that they consistently top out those types of lists. Driller Killer, while not nearly in the same league as those movies, has a similar reputation amongst slasher fans: this is supposed to be one of the best in the genre, so I went in with pretty high expectations. I wasn't thoroughly disappointed, but I'm amazed that some people rank this one so high.

The storyline centers around a New York artist named Reno Miller (director Abel Ferrara) who is going through a bad time in his life, to put it mildly. He lives with a couple of lesbian roommates - Carol (Carolyn Marz) and Pamela (Baybi Day) - who are constantly griping about their current situation, that being that they're all broke and teetering on the edge of being kicked out on the streets. Reno thinks that everything will be fine once he finishes his latest painting, but listening to these women gripe isn't exactly the type of thing that sets a man at ease. As if that wasn't bad enough, a punk rock band has moved in to the apartment next door, and this particular band is both horrible and persistent with their practice sessions: not a night goes by where they don't stay up until the wee hours of the morning playing through their songs. It all becomes too much for Reno to bear, so he picks up his trusty drill and heads out to dispose of some derelicts to relieve some tension... and when an art dealer tells him that his work is shit, he really goes off the deep end.

This movie has quite the history behind it: yes, it was one of the first movies to be added to the infamous "Video Nasties" list (and its release was party responsible for the formation of said list), and yes, the cast is made up of people more accustomed to working in the porn industry with a lone exception - however, I'm going to skip over all of that and merely focus on the film itself for the purpose of this review. My reason for this is simple: if you strip away all of the history behind the film and ignore the large cult following that it's achieved and simply watch it as you would any other film, it's a pretty forgettable affair.

My main problem with the film is first-time director Abel Ferrara's decision to mix two very different genres together into one film, those being the exploitation / trash slasher film and the trippy arthouse film. This mixture has been done before with varying degrees of success, but here, it simply doesn't work. The arthouse side of the movie isn't done very well, which leads to a number of scenes which go nowhere and, to be blunt, are fairly boring. This can largely be attributed to the fact that, being a first-time director (and likely stoned out of his mind, if the DVD commentary is anything to go by), he didn't have a whole lot of experience with things like a cohesive storyline and how to properly shoot a scene. The fact that the cast is made up of porno stars should be sufficient when it comes to describing how everyone performed in front of the camera, so I think it'll be safe to skip right on over that aspect of the film.

Now, that's not to say that the movie is a complete waste of time. There are some good kills to be found here, with one of them actually being quite realistic and memorable. The final scene was also excellent, and the way that it was handled definitely ranks up there with some of the better endings that I've seen in my time. I also enjoyed how he accurately depicted how gritty New York was during the time, but this one sort of ties in with my complaints about the film: it went on for far too long and, instead of furthering the story, it seemed to go on for the sole sake of capturing this slice of the early eighties on film. Watching these bums drink booze and puke all over themselves does help establish the environment that our characters are living in and watching a punk band play some shitty music shows a glimpse of the music scene of the time, but these should have been limited to, say, two or three scenes each; instead, we're "treated" to scene after scene after godawful scene of it.

It's worth the watch for a couple of interesting kills and a damned fine ending, but keeping the fast-forward button on your remote handy would be the best piece of advice that I could give you. 5/10.
Andy van Heel #1: Andy van Heel - added 02/28/2012, 03:59 AM
Didn't like it at all. One of the worst video nasties i've seen so far. Tony Coca Cola and the Roosters is also the worst band ever.
Bill Wolford #2: Bill Wolford - added 02/28/2012, 05:41 AM
Andy, this is actually one of the better video nasties as the critics say, and I agree. You need to watch more of them. I'm not saying you'll like this movie any better afterward, but I am saying you'll appreciate it more compared to the other nasties out there.
Ginose #3: Ginose - added 02/28/2012, 07:28 PM
Eeeeeeyeah. Gonna have to back Bill here. I think Ferrara, on average, is a fucking hack anyway... I've never liked "Driller Killer"... in the least. There are, however, MUCH worse video nasties out there. The notoriety of being a VN is all that keeps this one in the annals of horror.
Andy van Heel #4: Andy van Heel - added 02/29/2012, 04:42 AM
So, tell me, if there are VideoNasties that are worse, wich ones? So I can avoid them.
Bill Wolford #5: Bill Wolford - added 02/29/2012, 10:14 AM
that's the fun of exploring the video nasties. What you might hate, I might like. Driller killer is a case in point. If you hated this one, and remember that the Evil Dead was a video nasty, there's quite a gap between the good & the bad. But you have to find out for yourself. Look up video nasties on google or find trailers on you tube. You might be able to get enough of an idea from watching them.
Andy van Heel #6: Andy van Heel - added 03/01/2012, 05:51 AM
Guess that's true. Trial and Error.
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