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Poster for Cult 101: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
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Cult 101: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

Opens on January 12

Director: John McNaughton Run Time: 83 min. Release Year: 1986

Starring: Anne Bartoletti, Mary Demas, Michael Rooker, Tom Towles, Tracy Arnold

Country: United States
Language: English

Cult 101 at Gateway Film Center

A celebration of the best cult films of all time.

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About the film:

Henry, a psychopathic drifter who has left a trail of bodies in his wake, settles for a while at the dilapidated Chicago apartment of ex-prison mate Otis. Into this toxic environment comes Otis’s younger sister Becky, who’s fleeing an abusive marriage and looking for a place to stay. Deflecting her brother’s incestuous advances, Becky finds herself attracted to Henry and sees him as a potential lover and herself as his possible savior. What she doesn’t realize is that Otis and Henry are now killing together, sinking to ever more terrifying depths of depravity. As Becky tries to get her life back on track, she looks to Henry for a way out. But is redemption even possible for a man like Henry?

“To simply call it groundbreaking would be a disservice.”

—Joshua Brunsting, The Criterion Cast

About the filmmaker:

John McNaughton is a talented independent filmmaker from Chicago, Illinois whose bleak, chilling vision of society has garnered him considerable critical praise and controversy. His first feature film, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986), was not distributed for over three years after its completion in 1986–partly as a result of its precarious financial provenance, but also because of its relentless but nonjudgmental examination of the pathology of the real-life Henry Lee Lucas. “Henry” was the first film over which a production company sued the MPPA for the X rating it received. Eventually, McNaughton’s powerful and insightful if extremely unnerving film, with its final shooting cost of only $120,000, became a cult hit on the art house circuit and even made the annual “Top 10” lists of Time Magazine, USA Today, and the Chicago Tribune.

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