The Driller Killer (Abel Ferrara, 1979)

Man holding a power drill red bold type DRILLER KILLER

The Driller Killer (1979)
Directed and produced by: Abel Ferrara.

Cast: Abel Ferrara, Carolyn Marz, Baybi Day, Harry Schultz

Reno (Abel Ferrara), a painter sharing his New York flat with his girlfriend and her lover, is way behind on rent. He’s working obsessively on a canvas that he believes to be his masterpiece, but repeatedly fails to complete it. The artist gets progressively deranged, haunted by hallucinations, finally taking to killing the hobos in his area with a portable electric drill. He becomes the titular Driller Killer.

THE DRILLER KILLER’s narrative doesn’t have much of a pulse. The film drags awfully in-between the shoddy gore scenes and abstract freakout scenes. The cast of non-actors, headlined by Ferrara himself, is all over the place and there’s way too much filler footage of Tony Coca-Cola and his band being jerks. The screenplay, by Ferrara’s regular collaborator Nicholas St. John (BAD LIEUTENANT) touches on many of the themes – redemption, artistic ambition, creative meltdown – which Ferrara would keep on exploring throughout his carrer. Endearingly lo-fi, THE DRILLER KILLER feels bloated even in its 95-minute cut, but the even more amorphous 100 minutes version may appeal to grindhouse lovers and indie filmmakers. Abel Ferrara did a much better job with his next feature, MS .45.

Reviewed by Alex Bakshaev in May, 2020