Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Henry - Portrait of a Serial Killer |
Actors: Michael Rooker, Tracy Arnold, Tom Towles, Mary Demas, Anne Bartoletti
Director: John McNaughton
Genres: Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
Ever seen a film so terrifying that it made you want to sleep with all the lights on? A film so unsettling that some of its scenes were stuck in your mind long after you'd finished viewing it? John McNaughton's hor... more »
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The most disturbing film ever made?
Mr. Stuart Chandler | 07/09/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In the early 1980s, a group of guys wanted to make a new kind of horror film. Due to a very limited budget and time constraints, they knew they couldn't make one involving complex special effects and hideous-looking monsters - gore was not really an option. John McNaughton, first time Director, decided on a film about the everyday life a serial killer, set in modern day America. Much of the shoot would be on location, so no flashy soundstages or huge sets to eat up the budget. They cast an unknown in the lead and kept the cast and crew minimal. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer was born. The effect of watching this film will flood you with many emotions as you go through it - anger, fear, empathy, sympathy, disgust to name but a few. It's very simple plot - a serial killer moves in with his ex-con cellmate and sister, then goes round killing people, is disturbingly simple. Absolutely everything about this picture works - the shoddy locations, the precision character acting (easily Michael Rooker's best film and his most intense performance) and matter-of-fact manner in which the murders happen, make this one of the most disturbing films ever made. I think it is a masterpiece and creates feelings in the audience that go well beyond any that the huge Hollywood blockbusters could hope to get near to. It is I would say, the most disturbing film I have ever seen (and I've watched many, many horror films) because it works on an entirely different level - these are people you pass in the street, that live near to you. McNaughton offers no explanation as to why the things we watch on the screen happen, they just do - which ultimately makes this more terrifying. Thus, we are left with an almost flawless character study of a serial killer in his prime, no hope for redemption, Henry kills because he enjoys it, no other reason and we, as the audience are implicated into that, by our fascination with evil deeds and violence (otherwise why in the first place, would you even want to watch a film like this?).Perhaps the most interesting element of the entire film is right at the beginning before it starts - a warning is displayed, giving the audience a taster of just what they're going to experience. McNaughton has oft claimed that anyone who sits through the whole film needs it, that those who leave early or don't watch it, don't need it. We are left with a film that makes you feel depressed about enjoying onscreen violence, forcing you to question just why you'd want to see people being killed and surely this can only be a good thing?The DVD is fully uncut and includes insights by McNaughton which are interesting and add to the general feeling of the film - it's certainly worth getting this version if any, but be warned - this is a one-off - no ghosts, ghouls or buckets of gore, nothing so easy I'm afraid."
Mean as a junkyard dog
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 06/17/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The reputation of John McNaughton's "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" is enormous in the realm of independent cinema. Made on a budget of over one hundred thousand dollars back in the 1980s, the movie went on to polarize viewers and critics alike. Some praised McNaughton's unflinching vision, his nihilistic portrayal of two lower class killers with nothing to live for and nothing to lose. The other camp rejected the film outright, deriding it as the worst sort of exploitative trash cinema. I tend to favor the former opinion; I think McNaughton's film is a brilliant look at a microscopic segment of society we all know exists even if it is rarely discussed. Besides, bashing the film as exploitative beggars the question of who it is exploiting. Serial killers? Guys like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Henry Lee Lucas (the killer McNaughton loosely based the film on) could stand to have a bit more mud slung on their already malevolent reputations. I cannot find one scene in the movie that idolizes what these two guys do in their spare time. And, unlike slasher films and sundry other horror films, "Henry" demonstrates that violent acts have serious consequences."Henry" takes place in the dirty, gray streets and alleyways of Chicago. Henry (Michael Rooker) and his prison pal Otis (Tom Towles) spend their days working low paying jobs, drinking beer, and watching television. Otis toils at a gas station in between trips to his parole officer. Henry works as an insect exterminator (!). Things start looking up when Becky (Tracy Arnold), Otis's sister, moves in with the pair to escape the doldrums of small town life. Although she has some problems back home with a troublesome boyfriend, Becky takes a shine to Henry almost immediately. She pesters her brother for information about the man and is not disturbed in the least when Otis tells her that Henry went to prison for murdering his mother. In fact, she finds this information rather intriguing. Henry comes to like Becky too, so much so that he steps in when Otis treats her in a disturbing manner. The presence of Becky complicates the odd relationship between the two men, a relationship that is soon to take a horrific turn as Otis discovers what Henry does in his spare time.Henry is a serial killer, a despicable murderer who preys on total strangers. He thinks nothing of following a potential victim home from the mall, or picking up strangers in bars and then dispatching them in grisly ways. Henry likes the feeling he gets from his crimes, and he soon involves Otis in his gruesome activities. Why his friend decides to help is a mystery. Perhaps he feels Becky driving a wedge between him and Henry. Otis exhibits many of the behaviors associated with a follower, and Henry is definitely a take-charge sort of guy, so maybe that is the overriding reason. Whatever the case, Otis soon becomes as enthusiastic about murder as Henry. When Otis complains about being angry one evening, his pal helpfully relieves the tension by tricking a passing car into stopping so the two can shoot the driver. A broken television set provides the impetus for a killing at a fence's office. The absolute worst crime involving these two, however, is something we see on videotape as Henry and Otis relive their thrills. Predictably, Becky soon discovers what her brother and his friend do when they aren't at home. The conclusion to the film is a shocker.Any way you cut it (no pun intended), "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" is an excruciating experience. The crimes, while not overtly gory, revel in the sheer sadism of the act. If McNaughton was attempting to evoke a sense of outrage on the part of the audience, he succeeded wildly. You cannot even stand to look at these people after awhile, so repulsive are their actions. I found myself praying for a police officer, a security guard, a neighborhood watch guy-anybody in authority to show up and put a stop to these two goons' activities. But as evil in real life often goes unchecked, so do Henry's and Otis's extracurricular activities in Chicago. The film accomplishes what it sets out to do largely because the performances of the two actors playing the principal characters do such a good job. "Henry" was Michael Rooker's first film, and I agree with McNaughton when he says in the interview on the disc that this actor had star written all over him. Rooker plays Henry as a sort of withdrawn, soft-spoken type that probably would appear unthreatening to potential victims. Just as good is Tom Towles as the grubby Otis, who portrays his character as an insufferable extrovert who occasionally sinks into pouty silences. Without these two actors, one wonders whether "Henry" would have become the cult classic it is today.The DVD version of the film is a good one. A lengthy interview with John McNaughton tells the viewer everything they ever wanted to know about the movie. The director explains the long road to finishing the project, his experiences when it finally opened in a theater, and the lengthy battle with the MPAA over the rating for the movie, a battle which saw the censors pushing for extensive cuts to avoid the dreaded 'X' rating while McNaughton fought to keep his vision intact. Considering some of the extreme films floating around out there today, the concerns of the censors seem rather archaic now. Still, the film has lost little of its power to disturb deeply. Fans of offbeat cinema, if they have not done so already, will wish to pick this one up soon."
One of the scariest movies ever made
Kitten With a Whip | The Hellmouth | 06/03/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Probably because I've seen over a thousand horror/fright/suspense/gore movies, I have trouble pinning it down. I can't name the scariest, I can name the top 5. As far as non-supernatural horror goes, this movie and Last House on the Left are the scariest movies I've ever seen. I saw this at a film festival and the audience was very, very quiet. My friend and I just sat there quietly cowering most of the time. It's just way too realistic. The opening and closing are probably the most frightening, and we don't even see Henry killing anyone, just the bodies of his victims and their terrified screams in the background, echoing. It will give you chills down your spine. The stuff in the movie that scared me wasn't any big "jumps" or gore, just very disturbing, creepy moments (especially if you knew someone who was been the victim of a homicide, as I do). My friend I saw it with worked at the city prosecutors office and heard about plenty of local murder cases and said it rang very, very true to life. One of the most chilling scenes is early on, when Henry goes to a mall and just sits patiently in the parking lot, scanning. The camera looks coldly and calculatedly at different women in the parking lot from Henry's point of view. There are so many shots you almost start to wonder what the point of the scene is until it hits you: they are ALL potential victims, this is how he looks at women. I have always been careful as a woman whenever I am alone but after seeing the film, to this DAY I do not walk to my car alone at the mall without my mace in my hand, and I look all around me and never turn my back on anyone. The movie also does not glamorize the killing or violence against women at all. Also, it's a good primer on home and personal safety. (a good rule- Do not EVER let a stranger into your house when you are home alone if you were not expecting him. In fact, after I saw this I never open the door when I am home alone and not expecting anyone, period. Think I'm paranoid? Watch this movie and see how safe you feel). The plot sounds simple but it's not boring. The movie follows the exploits of Henry, a young man who is practically a textbook case of a serial killer (male, white, 30's, drifter, soft-spoken, shy). Conflict comes when his disgusting nasty inbred cousin Otis Toole stays with him, along with his pathetic sister. One night Otis and Henry pick up a couple of prostitutes and are having sex with them in the car. Henry kills both of them sort of offhandedly, with no more emotion than you would swat a fly. Otis starts joining him on his exploits. Henry is more sympathetic than Otis, however, because while Henry does these things because he is sick and doesn't have a choice, Otis seems to get off on them, and also should know better. Things sorta go downhill from there, and the sister complicates things because she is so desperately lonely that Henry starts to look good to her. It culminates in one of the most chilling, downbeat endings of all time. I still find this one of the most disturbing, unsettling movies ever made. You haven't seen a really scary movie until you see this movie."
I stand corrected...
Steev Proteus | nowhere in particular | 11/23/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have always called HALLOWEEN the scariest film I'd ever seen. I thought nothing else would ever scare me more than that movie. Well, I stand corrected. Here is a movie that makes Carpenter's classic look almost lackluster in comparison (though not quite; I still and always will love HALLOWEEN). John McNaughton, an interesting and affable guy (check out the excellent, lengthy interview segment), directs the film in a sober, naturalistic style that avoids the melodrama of most Hollywood horror films. Michael Rooker plays the title character, a handsome drifter recently paroled from prison, where he did time supposedly for killing his mother. He comes to Chicago to stay with ex-cellmate Otis (Tom Towles), who also has his sister Becky (Tracy Arnold) in from out of town, trying to escape from her abusive husband. Henry is a habitual killer who manages to stay one step of authorities by avoiding any kind of pattern and never staying in one place for too long. Before long, he has seduced Otis into discovering the pleasures of random murder. The two go on a killing spree, victimizing prostitutes, fellow lowlifes, various innocent bystanders, and, in one terrifying instance, an entire family -- yes, children are killed onscreen in this movie. Meanwhile, Becky feels a strong attraction to Henry. Though he seems uncomfortable with her attentions, he probably feels some of the same feelings. Their relationship is one of the most ironic ever committed to film. I won't reveal how things turn out, but I will say that if you are easily frightened (or if you are a young woman who lives alone), I would certainly not recommend watching this film. It is certainly no cure for insomnia. But unlike garbage such as FRIDAY THE 13TH or NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, Henry is frightening because he could really be lurking in the shadows of your own neighborhood... RIGHT NOW! He could be scoping out your wife, your kids, or even you, trying to decide whether to risk killing you. It's such a frightening film because it's filled with the sort of thing you hear about on the news all the time. The opening montage, where we see the mutilated remains of Henry's handiwork, sets the tone of the film immediately: there are no moments of comic relief here, nor are any of the characters appealing or dynamic in any way. Everything is incredibly true to life (aided to no end by excellent location photography, credited on imdb.com to one Charlie Lieberman). No heroes, no melodrama, no cliches: John McNaughton's HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER is a masterpiece of horror cinema, and of cinema in general, an intelligent, objective, responsible, and ultimately moral statement about violence. Like I said, it's very disturbing, so it's not for the timid or for the squeamish, but you'll get more out of it than simple shock value (the gore is pretty strong, but not at all overdone). See this independent film classic sometime if you haven't already; it blows most films on the same subject out of the water."