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The Chicago Traveler

Friday Film: Henry

by Matt B on October 26th, 2007

I wanted to highlight a flick (filmed in Chicago) this week that was appropriate for the frightful season. I think I found the perfect choice in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
Directed by: John McNaughton
Produced by: Malik B. Ali
Waleed B. Ali
Lisa Dedmond
Steven A. Jones
John McNaughton
Starring: Michael Rooker
Tom Toweles
Tracy Arnold
Distributed by: Greycat Films
All Movie Guide

When I first heard the title of this movie, I thought it was one of those B-grade slasher movies with so much cheesy gore it's laughable. However, there's absolutely nothing silly about this low-budget film, often just referred to as Henry. It is easily one of the most disturbing docudramas ever filmed. Even though it was shot in less than a month, it was not released for a few years because of the MPAA's concerns about its violent content. The film was finally released without a rating and was greeted with quite a bit of controversy.

Directed by John McNaughton, Henry is loosely based on the story of confessed murderer Henry Lee Lucas. However, the film is based on his confessions, rather than his convictions. This is an important distinction because Lucas confessed to hundreds of murders, which later turned out to be false. In fact, many believe that Lucas was more of a pathological liar than a serial killer. And while the movie's opening statement claims that the characters 'Otis' and 'Becky' are fictional, Henry Lee was actually acquainted with Ottis Toole and his niece, Frieda Powell (who often went by 'Becky'), in real life.

The film follows Henry as he selects innocent victims, sometimes with his roommate and former cellmate Otis, and kills them, recording their murders on video. The attacks are among the most violent and brutal every shown on film. Henry focuses entirely on the exploits of the killers (there are no scenes of police investigation or victims' history), creating a brutal, thought-provoking film.

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POSTED IN: Entertainment, Filmed in Chicago

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