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Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer review

The flipside of the '80s teen slasher genre, John McNaughton's movie manages to go beyond the disquieting, distressing or even disturbing. It's downright dismaying.

Loosely based on the life of Texan murderer Henry Lee Lucas, it follows long-time killer Henry (Michael Rooker) as he tutors housemate Otis (Tom Towles) in the art of slaying. The backdrop is a grubby Chicago. The only glimmer of hope is Henry's halting romance with Otis' kid sister, Becky (Tracy Arnold). The ending is devastating.

Preceding the high-profile likes of The Silence Of The Lambs and Se7en, this goes for sick over slick: Henry and Otis have been damaged by abusive upbringings; they spend their evenings downing cans of beer; the TV is their best friend. For them, killing is an escape, a jolt of energy.

McNaughton records events in a flat, documentary style, never allowing a flash of sensation to slice through the gloom. It's this unshakeable despair that's caused Henry so many problems, the violence rendered too `real' to handle.

Completed in 1986, it failed to receive a UK release 'til 1991, and was then trimmed by a sizeable 48 seconds. This version is fully restored, the most notable addition being extra footage from Henry and Otis' home video, the pair having recorded an earlier slaying for their later enjoyment. Nauseating but bloody effective.

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Available platformsMovie