Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
May 20th 2008 01:52
The MPAA wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole. Not because it was graphically violent, although it is very violent in places, but because the American censors felt its overall tone (lack of moral tone to be precise) rendered it irredeemable. McNaughton didn’t want the dreaded X-rating (box office kiss of death), and there was no NC-17 rating at the time. Eventually McNaughton opted to release the film unrated in 1990.
The movie's opening image of one of Henry's victims
Otis (Tom Towles), Henry (Michael Rooker) and Becky (Tracy Arnold)
Otis and Henry familiarise themselves with a video camera in the park
Otis and Henry view their murderous handiwork
Bloody chaos after Henry walks in on Otis raping his own sister
Henry studies his dark reflection before making a final decision
The electronic score by Ken Hale, Steven Jones and McNaughton’s brother Robert, is also of note; very 80s, but it adds a potent element of unctuous sleaze to the movie’s overall soundscape. It reminded me of the early movies of Abel Ferrara (The Driller Killer and Ms. 45).
An offending image that was cut from most UK and Australasian prints
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer skillfully and uniquely plays exploitation against art film. When it came out there hadn't been a film of such bleak intensity that had garnered such media attention. It still retains nearly all of its repellant power.
(Of note: McNaughton would go on to direct the successful Wild Things, which used exploitation elements and a dynamic cast to enhance an ordinary thriller into a guilty pleasure.)
Here's the chilling home video/DVD trailer:
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