The Driller Killer

The Driller Killer (US / UK)

Dir. Abel Ferrara – Min. 96 – Year 1979 – Score  5.53


Straight out of the gate I have got to say that The Driller Killer was a lot better than I expected. In fairness I had zero expectations. The Driller Killer is a film by Abel Ferrara about a painter named Reno who breaks under pressure and starts killing people, with drills, it’s not a deep title. Reno is an artist who is begging patrons for enough money on which to survive while he finishes on his next masterpiece (scare quotes could be used there). He is trying to create this work of art while supporting his girlfriend and her girlfriend and while dealing with a noisy neighbor.

This sounds terrible but it isn’t. This is a 1970’s horror/art/indie picture. I have seen indie-horror and indie-art but never the three together. While the 70’s brought us horror classics like The Evil Dead and The Texas Chainsaw massacre both of which relied on gore and shock-value whereas The Driller Killer shows a man breaking under financial and drug pressure and going on a killing spree. The financial aspect was highlighted in the commentary but it is notable throughout the film and alone makes the film interesting. As noted in the commentary most of the manias in film prior to this have been sexual in nature and this makes The Driller Killer very unique.


I watched the new Arrow Video release of the film and was very impressed with the transfer. For a 16mm film made by amateurs it is really quite good. That said the release suffers from a bad audio track. This is not to say it was not the best available. I know enough about Arrow to know that the will release the best they can so this is a flaw, I would assume, in the on set recording. But it needed saying. However bad the sound is though the soundtrack was fantastic. There was a deep synth vibe common to the era mixed in with no-fi punk music.

Special Features (Italics from Arrow’s website)

Audio Commentary by director and star Abel Ferrara, moderated by Brad Stevens (author of Abel Ferrara: The Moral Vision) and recorded exclusively for this release

While this commentary track adds a little lore to the film I would skip it personally. I was vulgar and cheapened my impression of the film after listening to it.

Laine and Abel: An Interview with the Driller Killer, a brand-new interview with Ferrara

A standard talking head interview.

Willing and Abel: Ferraraology 101, a new visual essay guide to the films and career of Ferrara by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, author of Cultographies: Ms. 45

Aside from the feature itself this is the gem of the release. I am familiar with Ferrara prior to watching the film but this video essay of the director’s career was very well made and interesting.

Mulberry St., Ferrara’s feature-length 2010 documentary portrait of the New York location that has played a key role in his life and work, available on home video in the UK for the first time ever


Is a trailer.

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil

Little can be said to impress how impressed I am with Arrow’s work on package design.


Scores in detail

Director: 7 – Cinematography: 6 – Edit: 5 – Parity: 4 – Main performance: 6 – Else performance: 2 – Score: 9 – Sound: 3 – Story: 8 – Script: 5 – Effects: 6 – Design: 5 – Costumes: 5 – Keeps interest: 7 – Lasting Impression: 5