Able Ferrara's NYC meets the punk aesthetic
Steward Willons | Illinois | 07/27/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Fully realizing I'm in the minority as I write this, I think "Driller Killer" is actually one of Able Ferrara's best films. It doesn't have the polish of his later work, nor does it have the same level of craftsmanship evident in films like "King of New York." What it does have is attitude and lots of it. Ferrara is about 50% filmmaker and 50% free-thinking outlaw, and that comes through crystal clear in this film. It's gritty, messy, filled with errors and the occasional lapse in judgement - just like Ferrara. The single most important aspect of this film is that it's atmosphere and style is perfect. The punk rock band featured throughout is the key to understanding the film. It approaches a mass murderer story from what is actually a fairly unique perspective, but it does so within the American hardcore aesthetic of dirty realizing, brutal honesty, and over-the-top emotions.
Think about your favorite hardcore band - maybe it's Black Flag, or the Bad Brains, or whatever - their records sound awful, they're unpolished, raw, and totally brutal. Any idea of good taste gets dragged on stage and beaten to a bloody pulp. "Driller Killer" is essentially the same thing. The film is visually interesting, but it looks grainy and dim. Ferrara was using the tools available to him, just like hardcore bands used whatever cheap equipment they could scrape together.
The characters will undoubtedly annoy many viewers. One of the two female leads is constantly talking in this annoying, nasally tone, saying the stupidest drivel imaginable. The thing is, you couldn't get the best actress in the world to portray this character in the same way. This person is real. She is actually an airhead. Similarly, other people in the film are basically playing themselves. Ferrara's character is reprehensible, but he plays him with such reckless abandon that you can't help but be impressed. He's loud, brash, and usually in the midst of some sort of rant, but he's also believable.
There are lots of films that deal with mass murderers, but the formula is usually the same. In this case, a man is driven over the edge by a complex array of factors including the very real struggle of the artist for autonomy, plus catholic guilt and annoying neighbors. Ferrara's character simultaneously envies and despises the band. He would love to have their recognition, but he can't.
While the film doesn't look stellar, I'm confident that Cult Epics restored it to its best quality. At some point, a grainy film just isn't going to get any better. The DVD is loaded with extras, the most amusing of which is Ferrara's hilarious commentary track. That guy is truly unhinged! He's not above revealing flaws in the film and in himself, as when he comments that the lesbian shower scene was entirely him wanting to get two girls naked in a shower together.
The second DVD compiles his early shorts. They're probably of limited interest to all but the biggest Ferrara lovers, but it's still nice to see them once or twice. Again, Ferrara contributes commentary tracks to his early short films. Overall, this is a DVD set worth buying. If you're really not interested in the short films, Cult Epics also has a single DVD version with the film by itself.
If you enjoy the punk aesthetic, you'll have the best chance of enjoying "Driller Killer." Fans of mainstream mass murderer films will probably become annoyed with the unusual aspects of this film, but those who love the genre and all the strange forms it takes will appreciate the film, even if only in a limited extent. This is a tough film to love because it's so raw and confrontational. It's not a pleasant experience, but it is an experience. It's not a film that immediately grabs you, and you'll definitely need to see it more than once, just so the initial shock of some of the images won't mask the subtleties of the film. If you're an adventurous viewer looking for something completely original, "Driller Killer" certainly fits the bill."
If he'd put on a suit and didn't mumble, he could've had De
Kevin Farrington | New York, New York United States | 05/06/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Yeah, and? Exactly. I'd love to see what Abel Ferrara's illustrious contemporaries could create with the meager budgets he works with.
You've already read several reviews telling you what this film is about. You don't require another. I love this film for its images. I love Abel Ferrara for his sense of daring recklessness. His films are dangerous because they leave you grasping and gasping and left to work out their meanings on your own time. I love Abel Ferrara because no other filmmaker but John Cassavetes gets so completely inside the action on screen. From moment to moment it's a hazardous high-wire act, watching an Abel Ferrara film, and you are the poor soul desperately trying to balance, suspended between two far away points, over a chasm. See that mangled, twisted figure fallen down below? Yeah, that one. That's you. Because you can't hang with Abel Ferrara.
Do you see? Rent/buy this film. Learn something.
I hate director commentaries. Fatuous nonsense. Well, excepting, Terry Gilliam, perhaps. I loathe them more after watching "The Driller Killer" and listening to Abel Ferrara take me through it."