Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Driller Killer (Abel Ferrara)

Abel Ferrara's first full-length film (not counting the porno movie he made before it, Nine Lives of a Wet Pussy) was marketed as a slasher flick, but it's really about urban paranoia, punk rock, and 1970s New York City sleaze. Ferrara plays the lead. He's not much of an actor, but you don't need to be much of an actor to kill bums with an electric drill. Thank god he used Christopher Walken, Vincent Gallo, and Harvey Keitel in later films. He's a painter who slowly goes nuts because he can't pay his bills, a punk band moved into the apartment below and they practice all night, and his relationship with his girlfriend is deteriorating. He has no choice but to run out into the street and eliminate a chunk of NYC's homeless wino population with an electric drill powered by a Porto-Pak (cordless drills being unavailable at the time). It's pretty silly, and Ferrara made a lot of much better (and worse) films afterwards, but he was already a confident director technically and some of the scenes have a weird power. The DVD also includes the trailer for his porn film (complete with loads, pun intended, of hardcore action) and three early short films. The shorts vary wildly in quality. Nicky's Film is art-wank, film-school bullshit. The Hold Up is technically shoddy, but more personal and representative of Ferrara's later work. The real gem, though, is Could This Be Love, which I would include as one of his best films. Ferrara is able to reveal a lot about his cast in just thirty minutes, and he shows real and unexpected tenderness for two of the unlikeliest characters, while unveiling bitter and surprising cruelties in two others.

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