Some films are notorious for being notorious, and Abel Ferrara's 1979 rock n' roll serial killer flick DRILLER KILLER is a prime example. The cover is awesome, but that's about as good as the film gets, really. It's notable as it was one of the first films to be deemed a 'Video nasty' back in the golden age of insane films showing up on tatty videos, but when you watch it, it's kind of hard to see why.
Yes, there is some shocking violence, but there's also a very, very dull and prolonged build-up before much actually happens. It's badly shot, badly acted, badly directed and doesn't even have much of a kitsch factor to keep you watching beyond the needless scenes of a band playing dull old new wave rock in a minging flat.
Once the violence comes, there are some engaging scenes and an almost compelling sense of growing madness in the lead character, Reno Miller (played by Abel Ferrara himself), but for me it's too little, too late.
Then again, maybe the hype and the reputation of the film has set me up to have expected more from it in terms of shock, and the fact that it has a decent build-up and some character development may have been lost on me as I'd been expecting an all-out bloodbath. That's an interesting malaise which affects many 'classic' films now.
People have heard so much about these classic horrors that when young audiences get to see them, they are left either underwhelmed or openly laughing at things that would once have terrified audiences. This is a huge shame, as it means that for some people they will never be able to appreciate an older film properly.
Our desensitization to violence in the media has certainly had one outcome- if things don't go too far, then many of us may think that they don't go far enough. In the case of The Driller Killer, the controversy surrounding it has built its mystique up to the point that no matter how good the film was, it wouldn't live up to expectations. A shame, really.