Abel Ferrara may have gone on to make some great movies, but The Driller Killer – his “respectable” first feature following a few shorts and the skin flick Nine Lives of a Wet Pussy – only sporadically exhibits the skill and wit of his scintillatingly skuzzy subsequent efforts. Using Repulsion as its template, Ferrara’s rote slasher flick focuses on Reno Miller (Ferrara), a painter who loses his mind while working on a large-scale buffalo canvas, dealing with his two female roommates/lovers, putting up with his rock band neighbors, and struggling to pay his mounting bills. Though Reno’s descent into murderous madness is visualized through some semi-freaky dream sequences, the eventual abundance of religious and psychosexual signifiers never coalesce into something cohesive and, as a result, mainly function as little more than a handy compendium of the director’s future thematic preoccupations. The film’s most transfixing facet is its setting, a simultaneously enticing/repugnant late ‘70s Manhattan (all graffiti-decorated walls, filthy streets and bum-lined sidewalks) on which the director lavishes the majority of his attention and affection. Yet aside from its nasty NYC – as well as its somewhat charmingly low-fi aesthetic (think punk rock cinema vérité with a dash of arty affectation), and a few choice bon mots delivered by the magnetically maniacal Ferrara – The Driller Killer is mostly just a momentum-challenged, partially successful attempt to piggyback on the success of the era’s gory exploitation films.