Tuesday, July 6, 2010

'The Driller Killer' is overrated

This is a film that a friend whose taste I otherwise put faith in praised to the high heavens. After watching it, I dropped him a line to ask if this was the movie he was thinking of. Turned out that it was. And that he's not the only one who thinks "The Driller Killer" is an underappreciated. Oh well... I guess if there weren't room for differing opinions, there wouldn't be movie reviews.

The Driller Killer (1979)
Starring: Carolyn Mars, Jimmy Laine, and Baybi Day
Director: Abel Ferrara
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

The pressures of every day life as a struggling artist, combine with the sleep-deprevation of living next door to a punk rock band that practices at all hours of the day, gradually drive Reno Miller (Laine) insane and causes him to murder people with power tools.

If I had to live next door to that third-rate, mid-70s punk band that Reno is subjected to, I'd probably pick up a drill and murder people as well. I'd go after the band, not random homeless people, though. (I found myself increasingly grateful for the 4x play-speed on my DVD player whenever the filmmakers would attempt to subject me to a "musical interlude".)

"The Driller Killer" is a bit slow in getting started, and it fails to maintain the building tension as Reno loses his mind and goes on his murderous rampages--mostly because of the annoying interludes featuring generic punk music. This causes a film that could have been an okay artsy-fartsy slasher flick to end up as an artsy-farsty, sub-par and badly directed slasher flick.


  1. Ouch. I happen to be one of the people who likes DRILLER KILLER. I don't know if I love it, but I do like it. I see the punk band as an extension of Reno and representative, in a way, of his descent into madness. Their music changes as the film goes on, and the changes seem to coincide with Reno's mental state. Otherwise, I think it's just a good sleazy exploitation movie. I love the old, dirty NYC aesthetic. Oh well... to each his own. Definitely not a movie for everyone.

  2. In Britain this film is incredibly famous/notorious for being the definitive 'video nasty', that caused a huge stink in the early eighties and brought about compulsory video classification. It wasn't really the film so much as the cover, which was truly grotesque, and anyone of my generation, or probably anyone else who ever stepped in a video shop in those years, can instantly bring it to mind.
    I never saw the film, though, and for one reason or another it's never been one I've caught up with since. I suspect I'm in the majority there, actually.
    I always thought it looked pretty dull, in exactly the way you say.

  3. Aaron: Interesting. I thought the music going from bad to worse was just MY growing irritation. Darn it. You may have just made it so I feel obligated to give that film a second look. :)

    Matthew: There are a number of those "video nasties" where the British people were done a favor by the censorship crowd. Some of those movies shouldn't be seen by anyone. (Okay, I'm joking here... except for the part about some of the "video nasties" being unwatchable.)

  4. Can't stand Driller Killer.
    The idea is nice, Ferrara is interesting, but the actual movie is next to unwatchable.
    Tony Coca-Cola and his band deserve to die.

  5. I actually think this is one of the tamer Video Nasties that shouldn't even be on the list. And yeah, give it another shot Steve, although if you're not in a hurry to I can understand why.

    Alex... c'mon, man. Tony Coca-Cola and the Roosters need to do a reunion tour, in my opinion.