The Driller Killer – Day 26 – 31 Days of Halloween

The Driller Killer – Day 26 – 31 Days of Halloween

Another serious contender for the title of ‘The Most Controversial Video Nasty’ (the film shared that title with The Evil Dead).

And whilst the film does have its shocking moments of lurid horror (yes involving an electric drill) this is more a slow and meticulous study into alienation, the descent into madness and mental illness amidst a gritty 70s New York backdrop. File this movie more under ‘arthouse’ than ‘video nasty’.

Reno is an artist living in an apartment but finding it hard to survive on next to no money with bills arriving and his utilities about to be switched off. He lives there with his two girlfriends (how very bohemian!) and is regularly disturbed in his work and his sleep by the punk (or at least they think they’re punk) band living in the same apartment block. He goes out of his apartment to witness the violence on the street (on one such occasion he witnesses a stabbing) and also watch the homeless (he is seen drawing them in one scene).

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Reno- the artist at work

This film is like Roman Polanski’s Repulsion transported to 70’s New York. The slow journey into madness is there for all to see- the film even shares the motif of the skinned rabbit with Repulsion. Director Abel Ferrera does an amazing job of depicting the slow building tension that eventually explodes.

It was the film’s UK VHS cover that sparked the controversy in the early 80s. The lurid and graphic artwork was designed to entice the viewer into renting the film whilst it competed with other lurid video cover artwork that also wanted to catch the browsers eye. Initially this backfired- the film was held up by Mary Whitehouse and Graham Bright as some kind of totem regarding the filth that the proles could get their hands on and watch in the privacy of their own homes. Conversely though this worked in the film’s favour- the film was given a platform and free publicity.

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The lurid UK VHS video artwork

And it deserved it- its a great movie. This isn’t all blood and guts but a great character piece. It also serves as a great time capsule of a New York that is long gone. A New York that was on the verge of bankruptcy, is crime ridden and a place of real danger (check out the scene where Reno sees that his friend is sleeping rough. They are suddenly interrupted by a stampede of youths running riot on the streets who they hide from). It also captures the music scene of New York at the time- punk turning into No Wave/New Wave. There is even a trip into Max’s Kansas City.

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Reno and Pamela play pinball in Max’s Kansas City

Mary Whitehouse didn’t want you to see this. Arrow Video have just announced the release of a 4K Blu ray. This I can’t wait for. The film is finally getting the kind of restoration that it deserves after spending far too long in Public Domain limbo. The film’s legacy will now continue to grow.

And I’ll always side with Arrow Video over SS Whitehouse when it comes to film.

You can buy Arrow’s edition of Driller Killer HERE

4 out of 5..

Welcome!

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As this is a new site I thought I’d take some time to introduce myself. My name is Simon and I’m a film aficionado. I studied film for 3 years in London and am undertaking a teacher training course so that I can lecture in the subject.

But before you think that my tastes in film are constrained to the so-called classics of the subject I will have to correct you. I was born in 1975 and remember first hand the birth of video in the UK, the home video boom and also the ensuing Video Nasties controversy. I was lucky in that my parents were very liberal when it came to my viewing habits. The first two videos rented by my parents when we first started bought a VCR were Captain America (a cartoon version from the 60s) and Basket Case. I was much more interested in the latter and wasn’t disappointed. Its still one of my favourite slices of exploitation cinema.

The local video stores were my training ground when it came to learning about my tastes in cinema. Video releases in those days focussed more on the most graphic, lurid and sensationalistic movies with artwork that was just as attention grabbing. I would spend hours in these video stores salivating over video art that featured rotting green zombies, kickass Kung-Fu masters and blaxploitation actresses brandishing shotguns. In other words, I was in heaven.

From there I started to explore more films and even some arthouse movies. I also learnt about the work of auteurs who were highly respected. But before you think I was watching stuffy and boring old nonsense I’d just like to point out that the auteurs I’m talking about are people such as John Waters, William Friedkin and Hershell Gordon Lewis.

I then moved to London to study film and had at my disposal the best cinemas in the world showing all manner of the obscure and cult. When I arrived I went to see a retrospective of Russ Meyer’s work at what I though was an art cinema. It actually turned out to be a porno moviehouse. But I’ll save that story for a later posting ; )

My taste in Film and TV is eclectic to say the least. Within this website I’ll be extolling the merits of Public Information adverts, killer nun movies, gems set in women’s prisons, rape revenge films, animals vs humans shockers…the list goes on and on.

Do you love edgy and extreme cinema? Welcome aboard!

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