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DRILLER KILLER

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Abel Ferrara, Carolyn Marz, Baybi Day
Director:  Abel Ferrara
Audio:  Dolby Digital Mono
Video:  Standard 1.33:1
Studio:  Cult Epics
Features:  Theatrical Trailer, Directorís Commentary
Length:  96 Minutes
Release Date:  October 12, 1999

Film *

Ah, Driller Killer.  What a quaint, charming little pick-me-up. 

Actually, this is one of those extremely low budget horror films from the 70ísÖone that the cover box dares compare to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Last House on the Left.  Those films are classics.  Driller Killer is purely a cultist film that couldnít seem to find a way to transcend the lack of money issue.  Every shot in the movie looks like it was made by student amateurs, and with the unmixed soundtrack that doesnít even bother to mask noises like feet shuffling off camera, the cheapness is compounded.

What is the movie about?  Well, the title pretty much says it all.  But hereís a little more detail:  Director Abel Ferrara also stars as Reno, a talented artist in New York who seems to be losing his mind because he canít stand paying the bills or the rent, he has some girlfriend troubles, and the noisy neighbors are getting under his skin.  Same problems most of us have, but Reno is a ticking time bomb ready to go off.  When he does, he buys a power belt (only $19.95!), grabs a drill, and gets his revenge on life by brutally murdering homeless people.  And thatís about it.

Is there a point to the film, other than stringing together a few gory killings?  Hard to say.  Maybe weíre supposed to examine our own lives a little more closely and think about how close we might be to the edge ourselves.  Maybe weíre supposed to question the sanity of 20th century living.  But somehow, I didnít really walk away from this movie with anything that substantial.

Ferrara eventually sprang from this meager first film into becoming the Sam Peckinpah of the 90ís, directing such over-the-top violent movies as King of New York and Bad LieutenantÖfilms that have become almost cult classics in their own right, at least by the fans of big-time movie violence.  But now, thanks to this DVD, they can all go back and check out the little film that started it all for himÖthe simple story of a boy and his power tool.

Video (zero stars)

Well, I have some good news for DVD fans everywhere.  Think of the most disappointing transfer youíve yet seen on disc.  Chances are, itís much better than this one.  The video on this is so bad, it looks like it was transferred from a videotape rather than film.  Itís muddy, grainy, with horrific color bleeding, and also one of the most scarred prints Iíve ever seen. 

Audio (zero stars)

The atrocity of the video is equalled only by the mono soundtrack, which is distorted, scratchy and filled with distracting noises.  This is NOT what DVD is all about.

Features **1/2

The disc contains a trailer and a commentary by director/star Ferrara.  Normally, thatís enough for a three star rating, but I dock it Ĺ star for the commentary track being slightly out of synch.

Summary:

Driller Killer may purport to be a true horror classic, but the fact is, itís the kind of film that would look more appropriate being shown on the basement wall of some seedy punk club than on a legitimate movie screen.  Or for that matter, in your home on your good DVD player.  Itís an amateurish effort thatís sloppy both artistically and technically, and offers no real redeeming value.