Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Driller Killer (1979)

I blew it. This isn't even a fucking horror movie. As far as I can tell, it's just a painfully long music video for some shitty punk band I can only assume must have been friends with the director, Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant, Body Snatchers). I think this picture's reputation is based more on it being banned from the UK in the early 80s (and therefore an infamous "video nasty"). It has several elements I like in a picture; breasts, lesbianism, gore. So, there is that. Unfortunately, it's all presented without a modicum of suspense, tension, or story (other things I like in pictures). I think Ferrara's an interesting filmmaker so I guess I can chalk this up to being his first picture. His Body Snatchers is near brilliant. This? Slightly less so.

Ferrara, himself, stars as Reno, a painter struggling to make it in New York City. He lives with his girlfriend Carol (recently divorced) and friend, also Carol's secret lover, Pamela (who appears to be always under the influence). They struggle to pay the bills and usually can't. Rent is due, the phone bills due, they can't even afford to go out. Reno is working on a painting of a buffalo that should land him big bucks with a distributor only it's taking him forever to finish the thing. Can't rush an artist I guess. To make matters worse, an awful punk band has moved in down the hall. They play their shitty music all hours, apparently never sleeping, eating, or shitting. Reno begins to lose it. He starts having bload soaked visions. He witnesses a knifing from the rooftop and is more than a little intrigued. Later, he witnesses a commercial for a new kind of portable drill, the "porto pak" (only $19.95!). Things are looking up for him because that's a pretty sweet looking drill. It does other things too, but who needs that shit. Also, the homeless problem is getting worse in the city, bunch of degenerate low life scum. Buy the drill (I'm guessing he stole the money), kill a few homeless, finish the painting, collect his money, and things will be a-ok.

The synopsis of this thing (not mine, the one with the dvd) wasn't exactly correct. It claims that the killings are a part of the product of his "masterpiece" being laughed out of a distributor's office. That part actually comes towards the end. Reno's killed about 30 people by then. The killings at first are shocking. Reno hovering over a dererlict, drill in hand. The first one is incredibly graphic as he basically drills up and down the poor guy's chest and stomach with blood spurting everywhere. As Reno realizes he loves killing almost as much as he hates the homeless, the kills come faster and furiouser. Fuck, they actually become quite comical and I'm not sure that was the intent. We'll see two bums talking to each other. Suddenly, the tense music kicks in as Reno charges into the scene and drills one of them before the other knows what's happening. After the powerful first kill, they're all pretty much like this. There's no suspense as to who will get killed next. The kill scenes aren't exactly constructed so much as, I don't know, made up as they went along? The movie is a long 90 minutes and could have easily dropped 10-15.

Which isn't too say I hated it exactly. I actually sorta admired the thing. Aside from the gore and the pretty sweet, slightly gratuitous, lesbian shower scene (featuring Reno's nude roommates), the script was full of little moments that held my interest. I liked the opening scene with Carol reading the depressing newspaper stories; "boy hijacks bus and kills two" and "poodle accidentaly microwaved explodes - owner dies of heart attack." Reno had a funny moment when his roommates score free tickets to see the band next door. Reno, scoffs, but eventually relents muttering "at least at a club I can walk out." Pamela offers a suggestion for Reno in his dealings with the art distributor; "you should let him stick it in your ass. use KY Jelly. It won't hurt." His look is priceless and then he hits the streets to murder some more bums. By the way, every person killed onscreen is a man. I think Reno sees himself in them, in more ways than one. Homophobe.

It's not a proper halloween movie, but it has some moments. Ferrara gets off some funny lines but his descent into madness is completely unconvincing. Taxi Driver this is not. I actually somewhat enjoyed the cheap look of the picture, all set in New York. The bums were probably real bums that Ferrara and his crew threw a few bucks at so they could pour blood on them. The score has its moments (loved the heartbeats leading up to a kill), but there was way too much of that punk band playing the same song over and over. The ending rips off Psycho; guy in drag, shower scene. I'll leave you with the art dealer's opinion of Reno's work; "no, no, no, this isn't right! This is shit!" I should steal that line to describe this picture. Ferrara has gotten much better with time. This picture hasn't.


Anonymous said...

How on Earth can the rest of us ever repay you for sitting through all this garbage so we don't have to? I suggest all your loyal readers pool their financial resources - that way, we should be able to buy you a bag of chocolate-candy corn for Hallowe'en! It's the GOURMET candy corn!

steve said...

um, don't know why that was anonymous - it's me, the guy from stevereads.

brian said...

Thanks Steve, I didn't know they made those chocolate flavored! Where the hell have I been? Christ.

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