The Driller Killer

He's a driller queen
★
☆☆☆
Released: 
1979
Director: 
Abel Ferrara
Starring: 
Abel Ferrara, Carolyn Marz, Baybi Day, Harry Schultz
The Setup: 
Artist slowly descends into madness.
Discussion: 

I’m not really motivated to write about this movie at all, but it’s been so long now I’ve already forgotten a lot of details. Usually I’m at least mildly excited to tell people about a good movie, or enjoy ripping up a crappy one. Not here. So all this should tell you something right up front.

This is included in my 50 Chilling Classics boxed set, and I knew it was directed by Abel Fererra [of Bad Lieutenant, Ms. 45 and King of New York], it was. And also a little unfocused and loose and eventually a little boring.

The film begins with a title saying “This film should be played LOUD,” as though it’s a record or something. Then our main character Reno, played by Fererra himself, wanders into a church, I believe with choral music going—it’s very operatic—sits down next to some guy with a white beard and STARES at him. Then the guy grabs Reno’s hand, and he freaks out and runs and gets into a cab with his girlfriend Carol, going on about how the guy was loony, when it was clearly him that is the whack one. You, the viewer, might be forgiven for asking yourself: WTF???

So he goes into this punk club and you have this 1979 punk performance. I’ll tell you early on that this movie has a lot of content, both musical and otherwise, on the NYC punk scene of 1979, and is of primary interest to fans of that era and music. So a while later Reno is in his—or someone’s—apartment, and wanders over to where a nubile young lass is trying to drill a hole in a door. She has gotten wound up in the cord in a way I don’t think you would unless you were a retarded and blind kitten, but this girl is just a kitten [I believe the actress who portrays her is named Baybi Day], who can’t decide where she wants Reno to drill the hole for her. It’s all “Drill it there… No, there… No, there… No, over there… yes, I’m sure. No, over there…” Myself being gay, I am immune to the “cute chick acts like an absolute idiot and it’s so adorable” routine, so personally I would have just handed the drill back to her after the second go-round.

So we start to see the big painting Reno has been working on forever—a buffalo running through what appears to be a fire—and Reno has a long dream where the drill figures prominently. Then he visits his gay agent Dalton to ask for $500. Dalton refuses. It goes on for a while, his landlord giving him a skinned rabbit at one point, and then there’s a sudden, absolutely contextless lesbian softcore sex scene. There’s an awesome scene in which some woman at the punk club warns Carol to stay away from her man. Then finally Reno snaps and gets to drilling someone. He picks a homeless guy. Then after a while he goes on a homeless killing spree [or, I guess, DRILLING spree], seeming to kill about 4 or 5 in one night.

Then this punk band moves in upstairs and is practicing quite loudly at all hours of the night. In most descriptions of the movie this is given as the main plot, but that’s just because the movie is so scattered this is the most compact thread.

SPOILERS > > >
Then Dalton comes over and sees his painting he’s been working on forever and thinks it’s absolute shit! He describes it as “Worthless, worthless, worthless, worthless, worthless, worthless.” Then Carol dumps him! Then he goes fucking nuts and eventually calls Dalton and offers his own body, which of course Dalton accepts. Reno puts on lipstick, eye liner and panties, and goes over and kills Dalton. Baybi has a funny reaction as she finds his body, at around 1:27:47, in which she just makes silent contortions and runs away. Then something or other happens and it’s over.
< < < SPOILERS END

It was interesting for maybe 30 minutes, but after a while it’s just so scattered and the characters so unlikeable and the whole thing so aimless that after a while I just wanted it to be over. I later read that Fererra made this movie over the course of a few years, just picking up the camera at various points and shooting a bit and then leaving it for a while, finally trying to fit it all together into a narrative. And it sure seems like it. It wasn’t horrible, but if I had it all to do over again I wouldn’t have bothered watching it.

Should you watch it: 

If you’re really into the 79 New York punk scene and want to see a movie partially set there. If not, I’d skip it.