Late 70's Punk Horror Sicko Suit-Up

Our Review

"The office Halloween party was at the Royalton last week and I went as a mass murderer, complete with a sign painted on my back that read MASS MURDERER (which was decidedly lighter than the sandwich board I had constructed earlier that day that read DRILLER KILLER), and beneath those two words I had written in blood Yep, that's me and the suit was also covered with blood, some of it fake, most of it real."
- Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho, p.330)

Patrick Bateman on suiting up for Halloween as the Driller Killer with a last minute alteration.

I feel I must disclose something deeply personal here. I love Abel Ferrara's 1979 cult classic, The Driller Killer. I was born (the year of its release) in New York (the film's setting) where I grew up to be a punk rocker (the subculture surrounding the horrific murders and shredding up the soundtrack). As time went by (as it always does), I flew out to LA on a 'scouting mission', to see if it was a suitable place for a budding neurotic filmmaker, such as myself, to relocate. On that first flight, I was reading American Psycho for several hours straight which triggered a panic attack resulting in a fainting spell, face down in the aisle as I tried for the bathroom, a few thousand feet above the Earth's surface. Very few people know this about me and I wanted to share it with the world...or at least That's how I discovered my love for American Psycho (and the tame film adaptation soon afterward which, sadly, does not contain a suit-up scene).

Other things I happen to love dearly are the various tension sounds used in 70's horror films. The scene leading into psychotic Reno's suit-up, trails off with nerve splintering tension sounds that give way to beefy guitar chops of local punk band Tony Coca-Cola and the Roosters. This transition is simply exquisite.

The rest of the scene plays out with the Roosters taking over the soundtrack with an instrumental punk jam - giving Reno's suit up a rock video sensibility. True to traditional suit-ups, this one occurs late in the third act, but departs from any sense of normal character development. Ferrara uses the suit-up scene to further Reno's descent into madness.

Up until this moment in the film, Reno has never ritualistically suited up for his killing needs. He has exhibited impulsive behavior; making a journey out into the night without fixated preparation in whatever attire he happens to be donning at that given moment. This time, he applies lipstick, eye liner, grabs his girlfriend's panties, shaves his face, and straps on the Porto-pack (a belt, power-adapter to run his drill with). He wears a black tank top under a black blazer over black slacks with his sharpest looking black shoes.

The camera work teeters between the visceral, kinetic energy of the Roosters (hand-held tracking shots of the girls dancing and shaking about) and the controlled stillness of Reno's close ups. This juxtaposition mirrors the noisy chaos of the city and Reno's psyche (a theme that frequently enters the film to trigger his blood lust) as well as his quiet discipline as a painter (his only foothold of sanity). This theme is fleshed out stronger as the suit-up scene ends and quick insert shots of his paintings are revealed, muting the punk rock, replacing it with cleaner, dull-sounding throbs (not proper tension sounds but disturbingly close).

The editing is spot on; especially the quick insert shot of the door -- the art dealer's empty apartment -- that is where Reno is heading next. It flashes into the last bit of suiting up (the Porto-pack belt strapping on) and is broken into two separate beats. He pulls it on and fastens the clasp -- we see his destination -- he smooths the belt -- the door opens and in walks the art dealer. Another deftly handled transition.

Trivia: This is the only suit-up scene you will ever see that has a specific suggestion directed toward you, the audience, by a director. The film opens with a credit 'THIS FILM SHOULD BE PLAYED LOUD'. It is, indeed, a loud suit-up scene that deserves Mr. Ferrara's opinion.