Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Location: milwaukee, wi

Monday, December 25, 2006

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (John McNaughton, 1986)

Based on the life of actual serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, John McNaughton's debut film is probably one of the most notorious films of all time. Finished in 1986, but not released until 1990, Henry paints a disturbing portrait of a deeply disturbed man and his effects on the lives of those around him. Henry lives with Otis, a friend from prison whose sister Becky comes to get away from her abusive husband for a little while. Henry is definitely a magnetic personality, and charms both Becky (in a romantic way) and Otis (in a murderous one, although is also somewhat homoerotic at times). He falls in love with Becky, and convinces Otis to join him on his murder sprees. The story pretty much revolves around Henry's murders and those two relationships, as well as the bizarre dynamics between the three of them as between Otis and Becky, as well. There isn't much of a plot, just documentary-style filming the life of Henry.

The violence isn't the most disturbing part here; there's very little gore, and it's not particularly well done, either. Henry's complete lack of remorse, or any real human feelings aside from those of lust and anger is the terrifying element here. He convinces Otis to join him in murdering people (after killing two prostitutes without so much as a thought), and they even tape their crimes, and Otis becomes obsessed with watching the tapes again and again. It's a sort of sexual release for him, which, along with the eventual rape that forms the climax (bad word) of the film, is the only kind of sexuality we see Otis involved in, or even Henry, for that matter. The violence in the film isn't romanticized (outside of the heads of Henry and Otis, that is), it's brutally honest and uncompromising. There's no redemptive arc here, just a lot of sociopathy and misogyny (the violence against women was so intense at times that I had to look away to remind myself that it wasn't real).

Henry caused a lot of controversy at the time of its release. Some have called this movie exploitative, which I wouldn't agree with. It doesn't have any of the camera effects or fetishization of the violence performed that exploitation films do. Instead, it's extremely realistic, so much so that it is at times uncomfortable to watch. If you're looking for an escapist horror film, this isn't it; but if you're interested in the mind of a serial killer, and all the murder, torture, rape, and incest that goes with it, check out McNaughton's film. It deserves all the infamy, even this many years later.


RIYL: Last House on the Left, The Devil's Rejects

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