Stars: Abel Ferrara, Carolyn Marz, Baybi Day, Harry Schultz, Alan Wynroth, Maria Helhoski, James O’Hara, Richard Howorth, Louis Mascolo, Tommy Santora | Written by Nicholas St. John | Directed by Abel Ferrara
I have something of a love hate relationship with The Driller Killer. Depending on my mood I really like it, yet at other times it just doesn’t connect. This may be down to the versions I’ve seen: the cut, the picture quality, etc. With Arrow Video’s latest Blu-ray release though, there are no excuses as to whether I like it or not – it’s time to make a decision!
Abel Ferrara both directs and stars in the story of Reno Miller, the artist struggling to survive in New York City. Failing to make an impact with his art, cracks begin to show in his sanity and a psychotic alter-ego takes over. Attacking vagrants on the streets of New York with a drill he feels it boosts his creativity, but when an art dealer rejects what he sees as his masterpiece, that is the final straw.
The Driller Killer is a movie of its time… and ii is an attack on your sense. Full of rock music, drug usage and outlandish characters there is a message underneath all the chaos, though whether it is effective is another matter. With the look it takes at the economy and how it pushes society down, it almost feels relatable in a way to modern society.
What you do have to accept with The Driller Killer though is that it isn’t really looking to have a moral edge. That isn’t really Ferrara’s style, or at least it isn’t with a film like this. The Driller Killer is a film that looks at what it takes to survive the streets, and a man’s fear of losing what little he has. Sure, taking a drill to his victims may not be the answer, but in the mind of Reno Miller, it is what he needs to do.
The first release of The Driller Killer I saw was the old VHS release that came out in the UK after it was unbanned. Notorious for its inclusion on the ‘Video Nasty’ list this made it a must buy for me. With the film presented in poor quality though and still having cuts placed on it, this wasn’t the best way to see it. I’ll admit I wasn’t impressed. Through the years since that release, I’ve seen other versions and it has improved over the years, so I was interested in how Arrow Video handled it.
With the 4K restoration of the movie, this is the best I’ve personally ever seen it look and that helps shape my opinion a lot. Included on the Blu-ray is the pre-release version of the film and the theatrical cut. This theatrical cut also comes with a newly recorded audio commentary with Abel Ferrara and Brad Stevens, author of Abel Ferrara: The Moral Vision. Very informative, it is an entertaining track to listen to.
Also included on the Blu-ray is Mulberry St., a documentary by Ferrara about the area in New York which he used in many of his films and has played an important role in his life. With a relaxed style, the documentary is an interesting look at a New York that is fighting to keep its history. A very nice inclusion on the disc, it is a must watch.
For fans of Abel Ferrara, video nasties, and The Driller Killer in particular, I’m sure they already have this release on their must buy lists. People who are new to the film will be in for an experience, so it will be interesting to see what people take from it. I will call myself a fan, but I have to admit the fact it has taken a few watches of the film to get to this point – showing just what a complicated experience this film can be.
That being said, this Arrow Films release is easily the best way to see The Driller Killer and with the special features on the blu-ray, you definitely get your money’s worth. Just be ready for a drill to the head though, because that is how this movie can feel at times.
The Driller Killer is available on Dual Format DVD and Blu-ray now from Arrow Video.