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The Driller Killer
Abel Ferrara (1980)

Debut film for maverick director Abel Ferrara sees said director acting here (under the name of 'Jimmy Laine') as a New York based painter who slowly goes insane when his career reaches a creative rut, when he can't afford to pay his bills, and when a punk band move in downstairs and proceed to play at all hours. When it all becomes too much, a late night commercial on TV prompts him to buy a power drill. Soon, anyone in his way is drill meat.

The cover (in some quarters) and title for this are quite misleading. While there is enough mayhem to keep gorehounds amused - a graphic drilling through a skull, a stomach drilling - this 'video nasty' is generally anything but, serving instead as a sleazy slice of life in an arty, post-punk New York. What perhaps made British customs nervous about his one was the cover showing, in close-up, the skull drilling scene which prompted British authorities (also referring to Lucio Fulci's 'Zombie' no less) to coin the phrase 'Video Nasty' and send it back where it came from. As usual, when the years have passed and the hype has disappeared, a fresh viewing of it today sees it as a completely different film.

This is an exploitation movie which is certainly out to please an exploitation audience but is also not afraid to shy away from what makes its characters tick or disregard the environment they come from. Therefore the film dwells largely on the smaller details (the sleazy clubs, the colours, the characters, the banal conversations, the candid street scenes) rather than the gore and the violence which, it must be said, seems a little out of place when it happens.

Not a very entertaining movie per se but a curio nonetheless, kind of like two movies in one - part exploitation/part punk documentary. So, for those interested in exploitation with a different edge, catch it if you can, others beware. Love that band!.

2.5 skulls
Michael Baynes