By Nick Durham
Saying that director Abel Ferrara has had an odd career is saying it lightly. From his beginnings with making short films and even pornography, Ferrara would end up making a name for himself with gritty, unique, unflinching, and thought-provoking films like Ms. 45, King of New York, Bad Lieutenant, The Addiction, and more. In the late 70s, Ferrara began filming a super low budget exploitation movie called The Driller Killer, and upon its 1979 release garnered a surprising amount of attention and even became one of the infamous “video nasties” in the United Kingdom. Besides being a true piece of cinematic trash (in a good way), The Driller Killer announced Abel Ferrara’s unique style to the world, and became a classic of 70s grindhouse exploitation cinema. Arrow Films has released the film in a super duper special edition Blu-ray, complete with a limited release steelbook to boot.
The plot of The Driller Killer revolves around an artist named Reno (played by Ferrara himself, going under Jimmy Laine) who lives in relative squalor with his girlfriend Carol and her lover Pamela. On the brink of getting booted out for not paying the rent, Reno’s troubles are exasperated by having to overhear the music of a shitty band that perform and practice nearby. With all the stress, noise, and hatred of the local derelicts, Reno’s grip on his sanity begins to fade; culminating in the purchase of a portable drill. Soon enough, Reno is slaughtering the local hobos and drunks, and that’s only the beginning of Reno’s rampage.
Given Ferrara’s directing style and what all unfolds on screen, saying that The Driller Killer is an acquired taste is saying it lightly. That being said, for being a low budget exploitation film, there is some definite technical talent that is on display here. The film’s acting and dialogue are all over the place, and the film’s soundtrack will more than likely make your ears bleed (and possibly grate your nerves), but it offers a picture of late 70s New York City that is way grittier than any other film of the time period could hope to display. The film’s violent moments aren’t as plentiful as first-time viewers may hope, but when they occur, they get messy. It’s easy to see how The Driller Killer winded up being a video nasty.
Arrow Video’s Blu-ray release of The Driller Killer is a sure-fire treat. The film is presented here in two different aspect ratios and is fully remastered, as well as keeping the film’s original mono audio. There’s a brand new commentary track by Abel Ferrara, and good fucking lord, you have to hear it to believe it. This is a guy that flat out doesn’t give a fuck about much and offers his unfiltered opinions and reflections on making the film, and it’s a definite breath of fresh air. In addition to that, there’s a brand new interview with Ferrara, as well as a video essay on his filmography. Ferrara’s full-length 2010 documentary Mulberry St. is included here as well, focusing on the New York location that has often played a central role in his films. The film’s trailer rounds out the supplements, with the physical extras being a collector’s booklet with some essay’s on the film, as well as the beautiful steelbook packaging. There were a handful of short films of Ferrara’s that were included on the old DVD releases of the film years back, and sadly those are nowhere to be seen here. Despite that though, this is the definitive home video release of the film to be sure.
For fans of The Driller Killer, this is the release of the film that deserves to be in your collection. Newcomers to the film may wonder what all the fuss is about upon initially viewing it, as it is definitely an acquired taste. That being said though, it’s also a classic of the grindhouse exploitation genre, and announced to the world the talent and unique voice of Abel Ferrara. Check this out.