Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is one of the great Chicago films. But it’s also one of the great horror films.
Made in 1985 for a mere $100,000, Henry is both shocking and groundbreaking.
It’s spare, documentary-like aesthetic, terrifying soundscape, and nihilistic story has become a touchstone for depictions of serial killers. Along with a handful of other controversial films, it helped establish the NC-17 rating, which has proven both blessing and curse for directors whose films blur the line between art and exploitation.
It also secured the reputation of its director, John McNaughton, a Chicago South Side native who went on to make equally compelling films, like Normal Life, Mad Dog and Glory and the deliciously disturbing Wild Things.
It’s been over a decade since McNaughton’s made a feature, but now he’s back with The Harvest, which has its world premiere Saturday at the Chicago International Film Festival.
McNaughton, like other independents, has faced some hefty challenges getting his films not only made but released.