John McNaughton’s hugely disturbing, highly uncomfortable but very compelling serial killer drama Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer is to me one of the very best films about the subject, though of course it’s not a film I feel like putting on very often. Filmed in 1985, it had trouble getting a distributor and almost went straight to video until film festival screenings and support from film critics like Roger Ebert eventually managed to get it a limited run in US cinemas in 1990, despite the American censors the MPAA giving the picture an ‘X’ rating. Here in the UK it made it into cinemas in 1991 but with around a minute of footage missing, and the video release was cut further with the BBFC even taking it upon themselves to re-edit one particular scene.
It’s now got a 4K restoration for its 30th anniversary, and opens in New York on October 21st, and in Los Angeles on October 28th, before expanding to more cities. There’s no news yet on a UK cinema release, but we’ll keep our eyes peeled, as I would certainly attend a screening if one was reasonably near to where I live.
HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER is a chilling profile of a cold-blooded killer that, 30 years after its historic festival premiere, has lost none of its power to shock. The film, loosely based on a true story, has been hailed as one of the most disturbing and terrifying examinations of mass murderers ever filmed. Henry (Michael Rooker, The Walking Dead) is a psychopathic drifter who has coldly murdered a number of people for no particular reason and without any remorse. Leaving bodies in his wake, Henry makes his way to Chicago, where his he settles into the run-down apartment of his drug-dealing former prison friend and occasional roommate Otis (Tom Towles).
Also moving into the space is Otis’s younger sister Becky (Tracy Arnold), who is fleeing her abusive husband. As she fends off her brother’s incestuous advances, Becky finds herself attracted to Henry – unaware that he, along with Otis, are continuing their murderous rampage.