Driller Killer is known for being a cult favourite, a low budget independent flick and a pretty gritty exploration of the New York punk aesthetic. It’s also known for being so violent that it was originally banned in Britain when it first came out in the 80s. One of a list of so-called “video nasties,” the British Board of Film Classification made it illegal to distribute the film in the UK until as recently as 2002. Strangely, no such outrage existed in the USA, where the film was reasonably well-received as an oddball horror film.
It’s debatable whether Driller Killer was actually as violent and obscene as the other video nasties, but it definitely wasn’t nice. It’s become a cult hit, not because of a riveting plot or great acting, but because it was stylish. In the same way Slacker (1991) captured the culture of Austin in 1991, Driller Killer is a horror movie set against the grittier culture of New York in 1977. Like Slacker, which was made as a summer art project about the director and the people he knew in Austin, Driller Killer must have had some connection to it’s director. Minus the whole serial killer thing, of course. Much of the film was shot in or around director Ferrara’s Union Square apartment, and it sometimes feels as if the film’s characters could have walked straight out of CGBGs. While Slacker’s tone was mellow and casually philosophical, Driller Killer’s was intense, angry and sarcastic.
However, Driller Killer isn’t just about the disaffected New York youth. For a non-vampire horror movie, it’s pretty unusual too see Catholic iconography in a thriller. It’s soundtrack is also surprisingly eclectic: it uses a weird combination of punk rock and Johannes Sebastian Bach. It’s a strange indie flick, to say the least.