Review: DETROIT DRILLER KILLER (2020)
Back in 1979 Abel Ferrara (Ms. 45, The Body Snatchers) unleashed The Driller Killer on an unsuspecting world. The film helped jump-start his career, and the box art for its UK release helped usher in the “Video Nasties” furor. Now director Matt Jaissle (The Necro Files, Revolution 666) and co-writer Justin Scro have updated the story and relocated it from NYC to Detroit. But can Detroit Driller Killer hold its own against the legendary original?
Opening with somebody stepping on a dead rat, Detroit Driller Killer quickly launches into a voice-over about the city and life therein. Complete with footage of desolate neighbourhoods and a stabbing. This is our intro to the film and to Reno (Justin Scro) an aspiring, and broke, screenwriter.
He lives in a shitty neighbourhood with his girlfriend Carol (Alyssa Rose Schultz). She nags him about getting a real job and helping with the bills. A shitty punk band is using the building’s basement as rehearsal space, further fraying his temper and sanity. When the deal for the script he was working on falls through, it’s the final straw. The drill comes out and people begin to die.
Shot for $1000, Detroit Driller Killer is, according to Jaissle, an unofficial sequel to the original which has apparently fallen into the public domain. And he does catch a good bit of that film’s feelings of rage and hopelessness. It doesn’t, however, manage to make Detroit seem as much of a hellhole as the original did NYC. Much of what we see of the city reminded me of where I used to live in Buffalo NY. Not the greatest of places, but quite livable.
Interestingly though, it seems at times to owe as much to Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer as Ferrara’s film. Especially in the scene where he breaks into a couple’s house looking for a place to stay. There’s also a strong dose of straight-up slasher film as well. As a result, Detroit Driller Killer pays homage to the original without being a slavish imitation.
While there is a goodly amount of bloodshed rendered with practical effects, anyone expecting the kinds of over the top mayhem of Jaissle’s best-known film, The Necro Files, will be disappointed. The effects, for the most part, look more real, but so is the violence they depict. There are no penises or breasts ripped off this time around.
On the minus side, Detroit Driller Killer does slow down a bit in the final act. The scenes of Reno talking to himself are creepy in a Taxi Driver “Are you talking to me?” kind of way. But they and the long build-up to the killing spree at what has to be the world’s worst, and worst attended, rave throw the pace right off.
Still, Detroit Driller Killer is certainly worth seeing and one hell of an achievement on the kind of budget it had. SRS Cinema is releasing it on limited edition Blu-ray and VHS.