Quick “review”: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

Synopsis: John McNaughton’s take-no-prisoners indie lets viewers tag along with its titular killer (played memorably by Michael Rooker) and his sleazy, degenerate pal as they randomly rack up one murder after the next. The introduction of his friend’s sister, Becky, into his life suggests that Henry may have a chance for a normal life. That notion is short-lived.

Controversy: The film’s production company didn’t even want to give the movie a theatrical release, leaving McNaughton to personally send screener copies to prominent critics in the hope of drumming up buzz and snagging a distributor. But nobody was biting after the MPAA slapped Henry with an “X” rating, then mostly reserved for porno flicks. The violence-heavy film helped precipitate the creation of the NC-17 rating, a distinction for movies with with extreme content that didn’t cross the line into nudie-pic territory. Nearly three years after his festival premiere, McNaughton landed a limited release that earned just over $600,000, but made him into a folk hero on the cult-film circuit.

Rating: 7


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