The Grab Bag: The Driller Killer (1979)

It had been hunting me through the woods for several hours now, and I was quite tired. I fell down behind a tree and gasped for breath. I knew I couldn't stay long. Even though I was feeling the strain I knew The Grab Bag never tired. It had no need to sleep, eat, or sit around on the couch eating Cheez-Its. All it wanted was to kill. 

I made it to my knees and struggled my way to my feet. There was no way it would catch me now. Surely I had given it the slip back somewhere, I thought, but I was wrong.

As I rounded over the next hill I could see it there silhouetted against the moon, and the light reflected ever so softly against its hook hand as it cranked up it's chainsaw. I turned to run and tripped over something in the dark falling face first on the the dank forest floor. I turned over and began to scramble away, but it was too late. The Bag was already there. 

"No, no. I did what you wanted. I reviewed Monster High, and I even liked it!"

The Bag drew ever closer slashing it's hook in my direction and revving the saw.

"Can't we work something out." I said, and then I remembered I had a movie in my pocket that I had found earlier. "If you kill me, you'll never know how The Driller Killer is."

The Bag stopped in it's tracks and looked as thoughtful as a Bag with one expression could look. 

"It's supposed to be good. It's made by the same director that made Bad Lieutenant and he even stars in it. It was on the Video Nasties list, and The Dammed and Skinny Puppy have both name checked it."

The Grab Bag stopped and turned away. It had been thwarted by it's only other desire, knowledge of genre film. So my life was spared once more, but I'm not sure it was worth it once I watched...
The Driller Killer (1979) starred Abel Ferrara, Carolyn Marz, Baybi Day. Directed by Abel Ferrara.

Reno (Ferrara) is an artist living in New York City in the late '70's with his girlfriend Carol (Marz)  and her secret girlfriend Pamela (day). Things are not going so well for the tortured artist. His bills are coming due, the streets of the city are rife with crime and the homeless, and his newest masterpiece is still not quite finished. The tensions of the city mount around Reno each day as he becomes increasingly more paranoid and enraged. 

Once rock band The Roosters rent the apartment under him for a practice space, Reno's life becomes even more intolerable from their constant playing. After seeing a advertisement on TV for the new Porta Pack which can power any device anywhere, anytime, Reno decides to take his life and the lives of others into his hands. He purchases the device and sets out in the night streets armed with an electric drill. He takes out his rage on the city's homeless for many days, but as the rest of Reno's life begins to fall apart, anonymous victims may soon cease to sate his blood thirst. 

Film Facts

--The art in the film was done by D.A Metrov who portrayed the leader of The Roosters, Tony Coca Cola. 

--Half the movie was shot in 1978 and half in 1979 so there are a myriad of changes in both wardrobe and hairstyles at can be seen.

--The film was banned in both the UK and Germany.

The Bug Speaks
When I bought this film I actually did not recognise the name

Abel Ferrara, and I should have. Bad Lieutenant has long been a favorite film of mine even if you do get too see a bit too much of Harvey's Keitel. However, in a way I'm glad I didn't think about it because I may have colored my judgement of this film. Driller Killer is one I've been hearing about for years. I recall reading an article about it long ago that detailed how graphic and disturbing the death scenes were, and it went on to extol the film as one of the greatest slashers of the late '70's. I'm not sure who wrote that article and looking back I can't find the magazine it was in, but if I could find out, that writer deserves a swift kick in the gonads. Driller Killer might be mildly entertaining and one of the kills might have been filmed well, but overall this flick is as disposable as the trash that littler every corner of of the NYC streets. 

The acting is pretty well off kilter all around, and it is plain to me that director Ferrara belongs firmly behind the camera. I will have to say for the character of Reno that I would have long ago snapped if I had to listen to that terrible band night and day. Carolyn Marz does well enough and she looks a bit like Catherine Zeta Jones (back around Entrapment when she was still hot), but her love affair with Baybi Day's character never really sells itself. The two girls do share a shower scene, which is about the only hint of their relationship, but it is filmed so poorly that any eroticism that Ferrara may have intended was obscured by artsy camera angles.

That is actually the biggest problem with this film. It has issues as to what it wants to be. It seems to have something to say perhaps about alienation or the paranoia of living in NYC at the time. Perhaps Reno kills homeless people because he fears that is what he will soon become, but whatever the case, the message is so diluted in drill kills that it becomes pointless to look for it. The one decent killing which involves a drill to the head happens pretty early in the film, and the other kills contained are rather tame. In fact two of the most crucial murders in the film are intentionally obscured by the whole shot going red. I'm sure this is treated as being artsy, but I suspect it had more to do with budgetary concerns.

In the end there just wasn't much to like here, and even though the film helped me to escape a killer Bag, well, I almost wish it hadn't. It's definitely not one of the worst films I've seen, but it's grade reflects the inability to form either a cohesive narrative or a worthwhile message. If it had done either of these or pumped up the gore a notch or 12 it may have worked for me. 

Bug Rating


  1. This certainly not a film I tried hard to see, but now that I blog about films it is the list. It seems blogging makes me want to see something more than before. It has moves up higher on the list now. Certainly in the top 100,000 films to see before I die finally.

    I have a new Blogger film blog at

    and you are added there under Blogger Buddies with a couple other guys. it is easy to add you there, but I have yet to get you a special slot on my Wordpress based main blog. It takes a little more effort there to add links but you are there as well, but no image to promote you until I make one. My template does not do RSS with images like Blogger... hope I can send a few chosen ones your way.

  2. I liked this one a lot more than you, but I can understand your take on it. There was just something the film appealed to me. I love gritty looking films and I loved the shots of New York City, from that era. I thought Abel Ferrara did a good acting job--for what was needed. As with your take on Shock Waves, to each his own, I suppose.

    An entertaining review, none the less.

  3. Thanks Rev and Willie. As always, I'm happy to disagree with folks on our personal takes on films. That's what makes this whole process worth it. With everyone bringing different viewpoints, it only serves to enrich everyone's experience with genre film.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...