Driller Killer, The (1979)

Driller Killer, The (1979)

“What’s happening to you?”

A painter (Abel Ferrara) living in New York with his “sensible” girlfriend (Carolyn Marz) and her “spacy” lover (Baybi Day) becomes increasingly unhinged as he struggles to pay his bills, and a rock band rehearses incessantly above his apartment. Soon he is taking his fury out on random male victims across the city, using a power drill as his weapon of choice.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Artists
  • Mental Breakdown
  • Revenge
  • Serial Killers

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “sleazy cult film was the first venture of independent New York director Abel Ferrara,” who — under the stage name ‘Jimmy Lane’ — “plays a struggling artist” who “paints obsessively and begins to lose his senses” and eventually “has a complete breakdown”. Peary notes that this “grisly film is not your typical slice-and-dice splatter fare”, given it’s “not about a man stalking scantily clad females” (the “artist’s victims are all men”) — but while Peary asserts he believes “Ferrara is making some point about the artist feeling hatred toward men because he fears he is a homosexual himself,” I disagree with that interpretation; Ferrara’s victims are almost all down-on-their-luck vagrants who perhaps represent Ferrara’s fears of his own fate if he isn’t able to survive as an artist — a point highlighted when his finally-finished “masterpiece” is scorned by his agent (guess what happens to him?). Peary writes that Ferrara “scores with a lot of weird touches and humor”, but the “storyline is hard to follow and the violence is unnecessarily graphic”; indeed, this creatively filmed but self-indulgent flick can easily be skipped.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Good use of location shooting in New York City
  • Atmospheric cinematography

Must See?
Nope; you can most certainly skip this one unless you happen to be interested in Ferrara’s output.


2 thoughts on “Driller Killer, The (1979)

  1. Not must-see – unless your taste runs along the lines of pointless, over-long, artless, and often disgusting pieces of stupid junk… and, if it does, let’s not meet for lunch – or drinks – or at all, actually.

    In making what is essentially his first feature (though he had made some short films and even dabbled in porn), Ferrara (doubling in the lead with a pseudonym) probably felt he had to be as outlandish as possible if he wanted to get the ‘proper’ attention as a filmmaker. Inappropriately labeled a ‘black comedy’, ‘TDK’ did get Ferrara attention as a midnight movie, gaining notoriety for its censorship problems (i.e., in the UK). ~ all of which helped to jump-start his somewhat-anarchic career.

  2. ⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    A solid, interesting NYC underground film with a great, if pretentious, gritty approach. Certainly not the ultra gory video nasty Graham Bright et al would have you believe. Nihilistic to be sure and certainly not must see unless a film buff is studying the UK Video Nasties furore or the career of Abel Ferrara.

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