Slasher Hunt 2016: The Driller Killer (Arrow Video) Blu-ray Review + Screenshots

Arrow brings us a cult classic from the 70's. Is the film any good? What about the blu-ray?
Blu-ray + DVD

Released by: Arrow Video

Release Date: June 15th, 1979 (Theatrical)
                        November 29th, 2016 (Regular Blu-ray Edition
                        Decemeber 13th, 2016 (Steelbook Version)

Region Code: REGION FREE

Run Time: 1h 36m (Theatrical Version)
                    1 h 40m (Pre-Release Version)

Audio: LPCM Audio English 1.0

Video: 1080p (1.85:1 or 1.37:1) (Both Versions)

Before selecting anything we are given a menu that has two listings:

-Theatrical Version

-Pre-Release Version

Upon choosing which version of the film we want to watch, we are given another set of options:

-1.37:1 Aspect Ratio

-1.85:1 Aspect Ratio

This can be skipped if the special features are going to be watched, but is essential to view the film.

THE FEATURES [3.5 out of 4]

Lane and Abel: An Interview with The Driller Killer (17m 61s, HD)

Director Abel Ferrara has always been a fascinating person, so this interview was a must. There is the way he tells a story that reminds us of how mobsters tell their stories. Ferrara is very open about that time in his life and the making of the film. There are a lot of great stories, not just about the film, but about the culture and atmosphere that was 1970’s New York.

Willing and Abel: Ferraraology 101 (34m 19s, HD)

Alexandra Heller-Nicholas narrates this visual essay about Ferrara and his films. She goes over every one of his films, TV episodes, music videos, and documentaries that Ferrara has made.

I love these visual essays that Arrow has been commissioning. It is a great way to find out more about the people behind the film you are watching. Heller-Nicholas is very thorough and presents everything in a very professional, as well as personal, way.

Mulberry St. (1h 27m, SD)

This is one of three documentaries that Ferrara made in the years between 2007 and 2010. This doc focuses on the street that has become synonymous with Ferrara’s work. He has shot many films here and this doc is look at the street then and now. We also get a lot of stories about every subject, but what I found most fascinating were the stories about filmmaking. Watching this doc, I felt like I was sitting at the table (or wherever they are at the time) and listening to stories of old.

Trailer (:32s, HD)

This trailer tells us everything we need to know about the film in the least amount of time.

Commentary with Director and Star Abel Ferrara

Moderated by Brad Stevens, this commentary track is really good. As I said before, Ferrara is a gifted storyteller and he puts on a show for us here. Ferrara talks about how they got the money for the film, the “shooting schedule” and a lot more. Even though the film is a little bit over 90 minutes, you will feel like you have been listening all day. And I say that in best way possible.


I can not review the packaging as the disc I have is a check disc and therefore comes with no packaging. I can tell you that the film has been released in two different ways: The first is a steelbook and the second is the regular Arrow way. Both come with a booklet containing essays and info on the film and its transfer.

THE PICTURE [3.5 out of 4]

The Driller Killer was shot on 16mm and blow up to 35mm for release. Arrow went back to the 16mm film and had that transferred to the blu-ray. This means that the film looks pretty grainy, but I happen to be a lover of grain. It reminds me that we are watching something that was shot on film.

We have also been given to aspect ratios to view the film in: the original 1.37:1 AR that the film was shot in and the 1.85:1 AR that the film was shown in. I find that both ARs are right, but it depends on how you want to view the film. The 1.37 AR has too much head room at the top of the picture. The 1.85 AR looks right to me as it gives the film proper looking framing. However you view the film is up to you and neither one of the ARs is wrong. 

This transfer is really nice. I have never seen The Driller Killer before so I do not have any frame of reference, but I can tell you that the picture has a very filmic look to it and I love that. There are some specks and dirt here and there, but everything else is nice.

The film was also shot with very little light, so the shadows could have had a lot of black crush to 
them, but thankfully there isn’t any found here.  There are also no digital enhancements found here.

THE SOUND [3.5 out of 4]

This release comes with a English: LPCM Mono soundtrack to it and it sounds pretty good. There is a lot of music in the film and the audio is able to handle it with ease. There were times when the audio dropped down and a few times when the audio spiked when someone was screaming. Outside of these minor instances, I found the audio to blend nicely with the new transfer.

THE FILM [3 out of 4]

Since I was a teenager I have known of Abel Ferrara. Roger Ebert would review his films and he always seemed to like them, and the ones that he didn’t he still had nice things to say about. Until I watched The Driller Killer a few days ago, I had seen three Abel Ferrara films. The first one I watched was Bad Lieutenant, a film notorious for receiving and keeping its NC-17 rating. The film is a rough look at a detective who is not the clean cut Boy Scout that we are always lead to believe about cops. This was probably not the best introduction to Ferrara, but I handled to the best that a twelve year old could.

The next film that I watched of Ferrara’s was The Funeral. I really can not remember anything about the film outside of the fact that it was a gangster film. I plan on revisiting the film soon.

The third film that I watched was King of New York with Christopher Walken. I did not like this film. I found it to be very dull outside of the performances. I plan on revisiting this one as well.

I haven’t watched any of Ferrara’s films since I was a teenager so it was nice to be able to see his first feature length, non porn film and I am happy to say that I did like the film, just not as much as I would have liked.

For years I had been told that this film was a slasher film. I love slasher films and when I found out that Arrow was doing a new transfer for the film, I knew that I would have to check it out.

The film is about an artist, played by Ferrara, who is driven mad by his surroundings. He lives in an apartment in New York City and lives off of his art. His life is in shambles though. He is broke and he has a neighbor who is in a punk rock band and has to practice all the time. This drives the artist insane and thus the Driller Killer is born.

I found the first few minutes of the film drawing me in. The artist is summoned to a church because an old man wants to talk to him. When the artist goes to the man he finds the old man speaking in a foreign language. The artist sits next to the man. The man grabs the artist, making him run out of the church while a nun says “But he knew your name.” I have no idea what this scene was all about, but the music and atmosphere drew me in and I was hopeful that the rest of the film would be like this first scene.

It is sad that I have to report that the scenes following this are not up to par with this opening scene. That is until the Driller Killer comes around.

The first half of the film is an arthouse film about artists and musicians living in New York. Ferrara takes his time in establishing this world, but I felt that he took too much time. While we do get to know the characters, I felt that we hung around them too much. I was getting a bit tired of seeing the same thing over and over again. There is not much to these characters, but Ferrara seems to think that there is more.

The second half of the film is for the grindhouse crowd. This is where the artist has had enough and decides to go around killing homeless people. The first scene, with the artist killing homeless people is both funny and terrifying. The acting in this montage is all over the map, resulting in some unintended laughs. This half of the film I found to be the best, not just because of the killing, but because the film started to move again.

While the killings are the highlight of the film, I would be amiss to say that the film has a grimy, dirty feel to it. The film was shot on 16mm with mostly natural light and this results in a very dark looking film. It isn’t dark looking in the way that a film like The Relic is (where you can barely see what is happening), but dark in the sense that there are always shadows to hide in.

Also worth noting is that The Driller Killer was part of the Video Nasties list in the U.K. The Video Nasties was a list of films that the U.K. sensors found to be morally repugnant. These films, which included films like The Evil Dead and The Beyond, were banned from the country and anyone found in possession of these films would face stiff penalties and possible prison time.

The reason that The Driller Killer was part of the list was because of the video art, which was a close up of a man getting the drill to his head while blood ran down his face. Had the video distributors used any other image, the film would have stayed off the list. The film is pretty tame compared to some of the films on the list.

The Driller Killer is half of a really good film. While I do appreciate character development, I found that Ferrara stayed with these characters a bit too long before the killing started. I do like the look to the film and found some scenes creepy and dripping with sleaze. This is definitely a film that should be watched if only for the second half.

OVERALL [3.5 out of 4]

While I found the film to be a bit lacking, Arrow has put together a superb package. The interview and commentary with Ferrara are fantastic and the visual essay is something we need more of. The documentary, Mulberry St., is a bit slow, but that is ok because of the stories. I would recommend this film to slasher fans and grindhouse fans. I would also recommend this release to anyone who has a curiosity about the film. It is worth the purchase.

Academy Ratio (1.37:1)

Matted Theatrical Ratio (1.85:1)

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