The Driller Killer

Notorious maverick Abel Ferrara made his feature (non-porn) debut with this strange, grimy art-horror film. It’s about a painter (Ferrara himself, acting under the name “Jimmy Laine”) who shares a cruddy New York apartment with two lesbians (Carolyn Marz and Baybi Day) and can’t make ends meet because he’s taking too long on his latest work. He goes steadily crazy when a band in the apartment below keeps practicing loudly night and day. Eventually he goes out and kills a few derelicts with a power drill.

There are stretches when the fast-forward button beckons, and the movie’s point seems to be pointlessness, with artsy red-screen fade-outs and feints at a cinema verite tone. And the two female leads aren’t given much to do besides lick each other in a long, steamy shower scene. But the movie does shine in random moments, and Ferrara appears to have more on his mind than slasher-flick exploitation. It’s of a piece with his other work; its portrait of New York as a squalid, menacing place where the mentally ill are dumped onto the streets is more disturbing than the gory drill-killings. Worthwhile for admirers of Ferrara’s overall portfolio; probably too slow and odd for those hoping for shallow splatter.

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