Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

Its chilly, detached tone reminiscent of Richard Brooks’s 1967 adaptation of Truman Capote’s documentary novel In Cold Blood, this ferociously intelligent film records the murderous exploits of blithe psychopath Henry (Rooker) and his old prison pal Otis (Towles) with an unblinking eye. To begin with, the violence is relatively oblique: Henry’s past murders are presented as a series of grotesque tableaux, accompanied by the distressing sounds of the victims’ death struggles. Later, the murders become virtually unwatchable, a fact that is used against the audience in the infamous ‘home invasion’ scene, which is revealed in retrospect to be a video recording that Henry and Otis are viewing. The BBFC’s James Ferman did not buy McNaughton’s line about audience complicity, so he re-edited this scene, destroying its effect. NF
Dir John McNaughton (Henry Rooker, Tom Towles, Tracy Arnold)

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