FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Jan 24, 2007

Brother, I feel your pain.

Gather 'round, children, and listen to a little tale from the life of Final Girl.

Once upon a time, I lived in New York City. Life was indeed grand as I soaked up everything I possibly could (except, of course, communicable diseases) in the greatest city in the world. With a spring in my step and a camera in my pocket I set out to conquer...and then Dan moved into the apartment above mine. I'd managed a few lucky years in my home with no one living above me, and it was only natural that the apartment wouldn't stay empty forever. I knew I had a new upstairs neighbor when I heard the loud CLOMP CLOMP CLOMP of footfalls- so loud, in fact, that I said to myself, "Wow. I can't get mad about that noise- it's obvious that my new neighbor walks so heavily because he weighs 500 pounds. Poor guy!" When I finally saw my new neighbor, I was shocked that he looked completely normal-sized.

You're probably thinking that a few footsteps from above shouldn't really matter- just ignore it and get on with things. It wasn't just squeaky floorboards,, you see, Dan pounded on the floor so much that my hanging picture frames got crooked. I could hear every single step he took in that apartment, always- I knew exactly when he came home because I could hear him pounding down the apartment hallway.

His repertoire soon moved beyond heavy steppin', however, to include turning the stereo up to full volume, blasting (Can't Get No) Satisfaction when he was getting ready to go out. Eventually, Dan got a girlfriend who came over every night. Hearing the squeaking bedsprings and the yelling was a novelty at first, but soon it was simply an annoyance as the girl got the ol' morning poke every single day. I began to feel as if my apartment wasn't an apartment at all, but rather an hourly room at some cheap motel like The Creative Pines.

I was moving heavily into making a go at working from home as a freelance artist and Dan made it virtually impossible. He was always home, and he was always loud. He became an invisible roommate who never paid any rent. New York City really is the city that never sleeps- there's constant noise, constant traffic, and you're always surrounded by people. That's fantastic- if you can get a respite once in a while. I don't think that's too much to ask- a little quiet in my own home. After Dan moved in, though, I never got a break. The noise simply wouldn't let up and I couldn't get away from it- it was some sort of sonic water torture. If I stayed in that environment much longer, I would've given up art, gone crazy, or killed my upstairs neighbor. None of those sounded appealing and I simply beat feet. My mental state is much better now and I'm living life as a freelancer, but I still can't bear (Can't Get No) Satisfaction.

The point to all this is that I could very much relate to the protagonist of Abel Ferrara's 1979 art-house slasher flick The Driller Killer. Ferrara (appearing as Jimmy Laine) is Reno, a temperamental painter living with his bisexual girlfriend Carol (Carolyn Marz) and her lover Pamela (Baybi Day). Money is extremely tight and the three are constantly on the verge of being evicted. Reno is struggling to complete his "masterpiece" in the hopes of selling it to gallery owner Dalton (Harry Schultz)- if Reno can make a name for himself, they'll all have it made. Bills will get paid and Pamela can get those snakeskin boots she's been jonesin' for.

Things get tougher for Reno when a punk band- Tony Coca-Cola and the Roosters- moves into the apartment below. The band is really, really awful and they practice virtually non-stop...the same riffs over and over and over as they attempt to get the songs right. Reno becomes increasingly irascible and distant with Carol...not to mention the fact that he's been sneaking around the streets of New York at night, using a power drill to dispatch members of the city's derelict population.

Eventually Reno manages to finish his painting but it doesn't evoke the reaction in Dalton he'd hoped it would. In fact, upon seeing it Dalton can barely contain the bile: "No no no! This is shit! Where's the impact? This is just a goddamn buffalo!" This failure is the last straw for Carol, who promptly moves in with her ex-boyfriend Stephen (Richard Howorth). Reno has a complete mental break and kills both Dalton and Stephen. The screen fades to red for the final minutes, leaving the fate of both Carol and Reno unresolved.

The Driller Killer is one of those movies I could sort of appreciate without actually enjoying, if that makes any sense. I could very much relate to Reno's plight- the economic strife and the frustration caused by the invasive sounds from the neighboring apartment. At the same time, however, I don't think the film really conveyed that frustration effectively- Reno spends a huge amount of time just hanging out- or even more strangely, actually going to see Tony Coca-Cola and the Roosters perform at a club- rather than trying to paint. The dialogue (which feels largely improvised) and the acting (atrocious pretty much across the board) certainly don't improve the drama.

The fact that Reno uses his drill almost exclusively on homeless men is interesting; rather than killing the sources of his frustration, a tactic we'd expect in a slasher flick, Reno kills those he fears he will become. The kill scenes aren't as notorious as the film's reputation would have you believe; in fact, they're rather silly. Reno runs around darkened streets and alleyways holding a huge power drill, randomly attacking street people. They say "Ahhhh!", there's some blood, and Reno runs away.

The Driller Killer works better as a glimpse into the late 70s New York lifestyle than it does as a particularly effective horror film. Everyone is delightfully smelly-looking and skanky in that way that really defines an era...back when 53rd & 3rd was a Ramones song and not the location of the CitiBank headquarters , or when Times Square was home to grindhouse theatres instead of The Disney Store.

I'm completely fascinated by that dirty and dangerous New York, so I'm gonna dig any movie that can capture it. If that's your bag as well, check out The Driller Killer; if you're looking for a great horror film or slasher flick, though...keep on truckin', baby. I give it 5 out of 10 hey, that coulda been me!s


John Barleycorn said...

I am that noisy upstairs neighbor. Before our weekly (and 100% retarded) karaoke outing, my roommates and I always invite a bunch of people over, blast 80's music, and sing and dance along. We've received four or five complaints from the Cat Lady downstairs, but always before the legal "shut the fuck up" time, thus, we ignore them.

But besides the fact that I'm as guilty as your douchebag ex-upstairs neighbor, I sympathize. People, it turns out, are largely intolerable.

Anonymous said...

...but, but what happens to Pamela?

Stacie Ponder said...

Bre--err, John-- I understand people live their lives and have friends over and listen to music and are loud and obnoxious...and that's cool, especially before 'shut the fuck up' time.

But Dan was SO invasive CONSTANTLY, much more than just listen to music too loud. I literally heard every step he took in that apartment. I knew when he got up, when he went out, went to bed...took a shower...humped his girlfriend. He slammed doors, he pounded, he was constantly dropping things. It was much more than obnoxious karaoke parties- I heard EVERYTHING HE DID. Constantly. It seriously almost drove me crazy.

Theron- Pamela gets sad and cries when Carol moves out- she didn't even say goodbye! Then Reno asks her, I THINK, where Carol went when she left. It was a little vague. She doesn't die, though! In fact, NO women die in the movie, which surprised me a bit.

Goose said...

I feel for you Stacie, I lived below two college guys that enjoyed playing baskeball all the freaking time. It sucked. I think I agree with John, people are intolerable, sometimes. But sometimes you need them just to have someone to pitch fits about, cause you cannot pitch a fit at the actual entity you would like to. Oops I am rambling....
Anyway, I feel for ya.

Anonymous said...

I live in the first floor of a duplex. One of the girls who lives above me is a tap dancer.

Pity me, folks.

Anonymous said...

This review = good.
neighbors = suck.

There, I've learned my lesson for the day & at 8:34
Now I have all this time to get hammered!

p.s. I know aboot having a song forever ruined for you. To this day I can't listen to "Hotel California" thanks to the Weymouth High School Girls track team! UUGGHH!!!

Anonymous said...

No women died? Sheesh! What kinda horror movie is this?

arajane said...

ok, so i've totally been internet stalking you forever, and i probably would have stayed quiet for a while, but i just can't restrain myself now... the creative pines! and you know what else i was remembering lately? one time when it snowed a whole bunch and you and meredith and i drove around holyoke in your crx and crashed into snowbank after snowbank. i have no idea why i think about that. ah, nostalgia. mer says you guys shared grilled cheese recently and i was envious (more about the company than the grilled cheese, but i do love me some grilled cheese). ok, that's enough from me. i'll go back to my stalking now.

Stacie Ponder said...

dude. Dude. DUDE. DOOD.

You know, if you say the above line really fast it may remind you of that disco classic "A Fifth of Beethoven".

Meredith TOLD me you were stalking's about fucking time you showed your face! I'm glad it was The Creative Pines that brought you out- best motel name EVARRRR. And the fact that it was in such close proximity to a bar called Cozy Oaks is just...too good to be true.

Did Mer tell you they were grilled cheeses of LIES? Don't try to pass off button mushrooms as portabellas...I'm not some...some...some rube who will fall for it!

Remember when you and I went on The Best Night Out Ever, including gawking at InterSkate 91, the arcade, the photo booth, The Craft...and we came out of the mall and the CRX had been stolen? Yeah, that was awesome.

Umm...if anyone besides AraJane is still reading this, you should know that I love AraJane. She's the fuckin' knees. Now if we can just get her to play along more often...

arajane said...

well, i can promise that i'll continue to stalk you and read your every word here, but honestly, horror movie and me just don't mix well. if i see a horror movie it takes me weeks and weeks to get over it. at night i'll lie in bed so freaked out of my mind that whatever was in that horror movie is going to come and get me next. in fact, even reading your blog sometimes freaks the shit out of me. doesn't that prove what a devoted stacie ponder fan i am? xoxo,

Lunchmeat said...

Yeah. I like the statement Stacy made: "I can appreciate the film without enjoying it." This is exactly how I feel about the movie, but could never explain it. Perfect description.

I really don't like the movie either, but love the subtext. There's TONS of it. Can anyone tell me the significance of the bull in the painting?

Anonymous said...

I believe the animal in the painting is a buffalo, but I didn't get the significance. There's an intense amount of eye symbolism in "Driller Killer" and the painting was one of the creepiest.

Was really disappointed watching this, but it made me feel nostalgic for how gross people were then, and how ugly NYC was also.

Anonymous said...

devo's version of 'satisfaction is awesome