Three women are travelling to a music festival but crash their car. They awake in the isolated mansion of an elderly matriarch and her daughter.
I love this film and not just because I found it in Poundland of all places.
This is a chiller that keeps you guessing until the shocking and completely nutty climax. Look at how great the film is framed and notice the tight editing. This film packs in so much but without any unnecessary filler. Also experience one of the sleaziest soundtracks I’ve ever heard. It’s like the director knew he was making a shocker that was destined to be a video nasty.
And that just what happened. The film was classified by the BBFC as an 18 but was then placed on the DPP list and banned anyway. This has meant that it has earned it’s place in horror history rather than being a very good movie that faded into obscurity. Thats one good aspect of the Video Nasties list.
The violence is graphic, the tone unique to this film alone. I hope this gets the Blu ray treatment it richly deserves.
The ending is shocking in a Sleepaway Camp kind of way. Un-PC in these over sensitive times but thats just what makes me love the film even more.
Donny is a very damaged person. After an incident at work sees one of his colleagues set himself on fire, we see Danny freeze with terror at the incident. This is explained through flashbacks. We see that as a boy his mother used to punish him by burning his forearms.
When he returns home from work he finds that his domineering mother has actually passed away. We then see her throughout the film in different stages of decomposition.
Donny then constructs a flame-proof room in his house and lures women back there to strip them naked and set fire to them using a flamethrower whilst they are hung up.
As a study of mental decay this is closer to Maniac than Repulsion. Lurid, sleazy and generally unsettling, this shocker deserves it’s notorious reputation.
The original title of the film was actually The Burning (the print I saw actually had this title card) but when the filmmakers found out that another film was being made using this name they quickly changed it.
The BBFC cut three whole minutes from this film for it’s cinema release and then banned it outright for video. Most of the cut material was from the first murder involving the florist Donny tricks into coming back to his house. And this sequence is VERY full-on! Theres shades of Ed Gein to Donny’s MO. But without Gein’s flair for interior decoration.
The first three victims he torches to death he then dresses in his dead mother’s clothes and places in armchairs. He rants to them as if they’re still alive which gives us a very darkly entertaining glimpse into his twisted psyche. He sometimes hears their voices.
As you can tell from the plot elements I’ve described above this certainly isn’t a film to put on in the middle of a family get together (unless you want them to leave of course). But if you love deranged, unhinged and off kilter horror then you’ll love this Check out the new Blu Ray release. The print is gorgeous.
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).
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.
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.
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