Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Driller Killer (or "The Trouble With a Reputation")

Abel Ferrara's Driller Killer is a film far better known for its reputation than for its content. For those that don't know, the film is a slasher flick from the US in 1979 and gained it's level of notoriety in Britain in the early 1980s when it was included in the Director of Public Prosecutions list of films to be charged under obscenity laws. This list became known as the "video nasties" and would eventually prompt the creation of the UK's Video Recording Act 1984, a piece of law that, for the first time, meant it was a legal requirement to have any video sold in the UK approved by the BBFC (the UK film regulatory office).

Driller Killer, available unrated on VHS at the time was promptly banned. It was not approved for release by the BBFC until 1999, some 15 years later.

All this excitement does, of course, make it a 'must-watch' for any self-respecting lover of trashy, gorey, sleazy cinema. Sadly, the film itself isn't very good. And let's be honest: my standards are pretty damn low!

Let's start with some plot; Reno is a struggling artist living in New York. He does some moderately good paintings and gets the occaisonal comission but is having some difficulty making ends meet and paying the rent is becoming a pressing issue. And then blah blah blah stuff happens and he turns into a psycho with a drill. It's hardly riveting stuff.

But we weren't watching it for the plot were we? We were watching it for the DRILLING! The KILLING! The depraved mess that saw it banned for 15 years from shops in the UK. As might be expected, time has not treated this shock factor well; we see more and bloodier films all the time, a slope that leads Abel Ferrara's sick and twisted video nasty looking like a film we might catch on evening television. Yeah there're a couple of fairly powerful scenes (I'm thinking the drill in the tramps forehead...) but it's hardly the stuff nightmares are made of and it's hard to imagine it having a corrupting effect on anyone really - video nasties were blamed for violence in the 80s as much as violent computer games are today.

The most damning thing you can say about this film is that, far from being especially good or bad, far from being impressively depraved or tame, this is really quite middle-of-the-road. I wanted to love it, I wanted it to live up to its reputation but I came away feeling vaguely disappointed.