Tuesday, 13 October 2015
The Driller Killer (1979)
Abel Ferrara directed King of New York, which I enjoyed, as well as Roger Ebert's favourite screen adaptation of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. No, not the Donald Sutherland one: a 1993 version that I'll be reviewing sometime in the coming months.
All of the above meant that I was quite interested to see the luridly titled Driller Killer, which was Ferrara's first 'real' feature film (he'd made some shorts and a pornographic film before this). The movie is best known these days for being banned in the UK as a "video nasty" in 1984. It would not be available in that country in its uncut form until 2002.
Ferrara stars (under a screen name) as Reno, a painter who is struggling with a number of pressures in his life. His latest work is running behind schedule and his financial situation is precarious - not helped by his live-in girlfriend and her lesbian lover, neither of whom seem to have any source of income of their own - and he is in danger of losing his apartment. To make matters worse, a punk rock band has moved in next door and their non-stop practice sessions keep Reno awake all hours of the night.
Pathologically afraid of ending up turfed out of his home and on the streets - which may have happened to his father - Reno begins to lose his grip on his sanity. He begins stalking the homeless in the neighbourhood. His choice of weapon, presumably because it made for a rhyme in the title, is a cordless drill.
Driller Killer shows some of the visual flair I've witnessed in Ferrara's later movies, but both he and screenwriter Nicholas St John are making their first feature film here, and it shows in the often flaccid pacing. Their lack of budgetary resources are also revealed by the mediocre technical aspects of the lighting and performances.
Only worth your time if you're a Ferrara fanatic.