The Driller Killer

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This article is about the 1979 horror movie. For the hardcore/crust punk band, see Driller Killer (band).
The Driller Killer
Drillerkillerposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Abel Ferrara
Produced by Rochelle Weisberg
Written by Nicholas St. John
Starring Jimmy Laine
Carolyn Marz
Baybi Day
Harry Schultz
Alan Wynroth
Music by Joseph Delia
Cinematography Ken Kelsch
Edited by Bonnie Constant
Michael Constant
Orlando Gallini
Jimmy Laine
Distributed by Cult Epics
Release dates
  • June 15, 1979 (1979-06-15)
Running time
96 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Driller Killer is a 1979 horror film directed by and starring Abel Ferrara, Carolyn Marz, Baybi Day, and Harry Schultz. The plot concerns an struggling artist turning mentally insane and resulting him killing derelicts with a power drill.

The film was infamous for being on the list of "video nasties" in the United Kingdom, resulting the film banned from 1984 (due to new censorship laws) until 1999, when a cut version was approved for an 18 (years of age) certificate. The full uncut version was finally passed by the BBFC in November 2002. On 10 June 2010 it was re-released as video on demand (VOD).[1]

Plot[edit]

Artist Reno Miller (Abel Ferrara) and his girlfriend Carol enter a Catholic church, where he approaches an elderly bearded man (revealed as a derelict) kneeling at the pulpit. The derelict seizes Reno's hand, causing him and Carol to flee from the church, unknown to him that the derelict contained a paper with Reno's information and requested a meeting with him.

Later, at his apartment, Reno receives a large phone bill and cannot pay his rent. He shares with Carol and her lover Pamela, in a derelict-filled neighbourhood in Union Square. Reno visits Dalton, a gallery owner, and tells him that he is currently painting a masterpiece. Reno asks for a week’s extension and a loan of $500 to cover the rent, however Dalton refuses, saying that he already lent enough money to Reno. However, if he finishes a satisfactory painting in one week Dalton will buy it for the necessary amount.

The following day, a No Wave band entitled the Roosters begin practising their music in a nearby apartment, in which the music makes Reno unnerved and frustrated. At 2:00 in the morning, Reno becomes more agitated from the Roosters' music while painting. After seeing his own image saturated in blood, Reno walks in the dark. He sees an elderly derelict sleeping in a garbage-strewn alley, where he takes him down an alley where gang members are seen chasing another bum. Reno drops the bum and vows that he will not end up like a derelict.

The next day, Reno complains about the Roosters to their landlord. However, the landlord refuses to act because the music does not bother him. He gives Reno a skinned rabbit for dinner, but instead demands the rent money. Reno takes the rabbit home and repeatedly stabs it while preparing it. During a brief reprieve from the music, Reno mentally hears voices calling his name and sees an image of an eyeless Carol. That night, Reno leaves outside and armed with a power drill. He discovers another derelict inside an abandoned diner and brutally kills him. The following evening, Reno, Carol, and Pamela see Tony Coca-Cola and the Roosters at a nightclub. As the Roosters play, Reno becomes irritated by the music and crowd and leaves while Carol and Pamela dance and kiss.

An over-the-shoulder shot from the murderer's perspective as Reno approaches Dalton to kill him with the drill.

Reno returns to his apartment, grabs his drill and goes out on a killing spree. Throughout the night, he then kills a number of bums before returning home to sleep. Later, Tony visits Reno’s apartment and asks Reno to paint him, in which Tony agrees to pose for his $500 rent bill. As Reno paints, Tony poses by playing his guitar and kissing Pamela. A derelict in a nearby alley (upset by the noise) is attacked and killed by Reno. Afterwards, Reno completes his painting, where he then wakes and notifies Pamela and Carol.

Reno and Carol show the painting to Dalton who leaves after declaring it “unacceptable” and Carol yells at Reno for sitting with a blank expression, resulting her leaving Reno for her ex-husband Stephen by the next morning. That evening, Reno calls Dalton and invites him to see another painting. When Dalton arrives as the Roosters are practising, a dressed Reno kills him with his drill. After visiting the Roosters, Pamela returns upon the discovery of Dalton’s body inside, causing her to flee before Reno grabs her.

Across town, Carol is back with Stephen. She takes a shower while Stephen prepares tea. Reno enters, kills Stephen, and then hides his body behind a counter. Carol, exiting from her shower, walks to the bedroom where Reno hides under the bed covers. She turns off the lights, gets into bed, and tells Stephen to "come here"; Carol's ultimate fate is left unknown.

Cast[edit]

  • Abel Ferrara (credited as Jimmy Laine) – Reno Miller
  • Carolyn Marz – Carol
  • Baybi Day – Pamela
  • Harry Schultz II – Dalton Briggs
  • Alan Wynroth – Landlord
  • Maria Helhoski – Nun
  • James O'Hara – Man in church
  • Richard Howorth – Carol's husband
  • D.A. Metrov (credited as Rhodney Montreal) – Tony Coca-Cola

Ferrara claims that Bruce Willis appeared in the film.[2][3]

Production[edit]

An example of the use of cross-cutting POV shots in the film as the protagonist Reno (on the right) plays pinball while Pamela looks on.

The Driller Killer is a low-budget, independent feature, with a cast of unknown actors, produced by Ferrara's own Navaron Films company 1977–78. It was filmed on 16mm film and utilised Ferrara's Union Square apartment and adjacent streets as locations.[4] It features many of the elements that became trademarks of Ferrara's later films. These include Catholic iconography, lesbian scenes, gritty urban locations filmed at night, an eclectic soundtrack combining punk rock and Bach, scenes of extreme violence and a religious theme of redemption, salvation and damnation.[5] The punk rock band in the movie reflects contemporary New York punk bands such as the New York Dolls and Television.[6]

In the Driller Killer trailer, Reno is heard to say a line from a scene that does not appear in the finished movie: "It's just a window, Dalton." [7]

The uncut version of the movie cuts to a black screen during the scene in which Dalton is murdered, as well as during the end scene in which Reno hides under Carol's bed covers. Instead of a black screen, the British BBFC 18 version cuts to a red screen during these two scenes.

Censorship[edit]

The film was released theatrically in America without controversy in 1979. In the United Kingdom, however, the reaction to the video release was very different.[8] In 1982, the UK distributors of Driller Killer, Vipco (Video Instant Picture Company) took out full page advertisements in a number of movie magazines showing the video's violently explicit cover, depicting a man being drilled through the forehead by the Driller Killer.[8] The tagline for the advertising and video box was: "There are those who kill violently."[7]

The advertising resulted in a large number of complaints to the Advertising Standards Agency, and opposition to the film from the press and elsewhere; however, it seems that very few of the complainants ever saw the film but based their opinion on the poster and title.[8]

The film was lumped together with other "video nasties" released at the time and a vociferous campaign was launched by the press to ban them all. Driller Killer was added to the list of banned UK films on 4 July 1983, just a year after its release date.[7] According to Mike Bor, the Principal Examiner at the British Board of Film Classification, "The Driller Killer was almost single-handedly responsible for the Video Recordings Act 1984" under which it and others of the "video nasties" released at the time were banned in the U.K.[8] According to Brad Stevens, author of a biography on Abel Ferrara, the banning of the film was "almost entirely due to the cover of the video." [7] The film was classified R 18+ in Australia by the Australian Classification Board and released uncut on home video on April 29, 1985. It was released on DVD twice in the country: first by Umbrella Entertainment and again on August 9, 2013, when it was re-rated MA 15+.

The film was not officially released uncut in the UK until 2002.

Reception[edit]

The Driller Killer has a 70% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on seven reviews; the average rating is 6/10.[9]

Remake plans[edit]

In 2007, it was announced that the film would be remade by British film maker Andrew Jones.[10] It was reported that this new version of the film would also feature many unusual cameos and an original musical score. The remake would have moved the setting from New York to London and starred David Hess. Andrew Jones contacted Baybi Day to help co-produce and have a small acting role in the remake of Driller Killer. The title of the remake was designated Driller Killer Redux. The project came to a halt after a financial deal between the executive producers and the two people who held the rights to the original movie could not be reached.[11]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Killer Online Double Feature on Friday!". Dreadcentral.com. Retrieved 2010-12-26. 
  2. ^ "The Driller Killer (1979) Review". 7 October 2009. Retrieved 11 May 2015. 
  3. ^ "This commentary should be played L O U D". Retrieved 14 June 2015. 
  4. ^ Nick Johnstone (1999). Abel Ferrara: The King of New York. Omnibus Press: 8-9
  5. ^ Nick Johnstone (1999). Abel Ferrara: The King of New York. Omnibus Press: 2
  6. ^ Nick Johnstone (1999). Abel Ferrara: The King of New York. Omnibus Press: 46
  7. ^ a b c d Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide. Nucleus Films
  8. ^ a b c d Nick Johnstone (1999). Abel Ferrara: The King of New York. Omnibus Press: 13
  9. ^ "The Driller Killer (1979)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2016-01-23. 
  10. ^ Felix Vasquez Jr. (18 January 2007). "UK remake of cult classic 'Driller Killer'". Twitch.com. Retrieved 17 January 2012. 
  11. ^ MJ Simpson. "MJ Simpson Interview with Andrew Jones". MJ Simpson. Retrieved 28 January 2012. 

External links[edit]