Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer Reviews
Henry is an eccentric man that has developed a friendship with Otis and his niece, Becky. Otis isn't too bright and is looking for direction and falls in nicely with Henry, a serial killer. Becky is unaware of their behavior and is trying to save up money to eventually get her daughter back. Otis and Henry go on a killing spree until Henry and Becky begin to fall in love. Otis may not take too kindly to that and his relationship with Henry starts to go astray.
"What was your daddy like?"
"He used to drive a truck until his legs got cut off."
John McNaughton, director of Wild Things, Mad Dog and Glory, Speaking of Sex, The Harvest, and Expert Whiteness, delivers Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. The storyline for this is as good as any of the classics and in line with Texas Chainsaw Massacre with the great feel and authenticity on display throughout the film. The kill sequences are wonderful and the characters are believable and developed perfectly. The acting was better than I anticipated and includes Michael Rooker (easily his best film), Tom Towles, and Tracy Arnold.
"My mama was a whore. I don't fault her for that. It's not what she done but how she done it."
I had heard about this film for years and finally got around to watching it off Netflix. This is a masterpiece and definitely belongs in my classic horror DVD collection (beside Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Exorcist). The film has the perfect grit, pace, and run time and the conclusion is unbelievably well written (though all historically incorrect). I thoroughly enjoyed this film and will likely add this to my DVD collection.
"Where you going?"
"Nowhere. Want to come?"
That really explains the film. Instead of creating a fun, campy slasher type film where everything is sugar coated, Henry is real. Based on the apparent confessions of real killer Henry Lee Lucas, the film is shot in such a way it feels like we could be watching a documentary and everything we are seeing could be real. This is helped by the simplicity. For example when a TV salesman is killed, it is done in such a simple yet realistic way, the scene feels far more disturbing than most of the usual over the top horror we see today. McNaughton seemed to realise that over the top blood didn't necessarily equal scary (although a low budget did help).
The star of the show is obviously Michael Rooker, who plays Henry in such a real way. Apparently during the whole shoot, Rooker stayed in character, and with the end result, I'm not surprised. Rooker has created a killer far more scarier than anything else seen before because of how real he seems. He could be someone you know, a next door neighbor for example and that's far more scarier to me than any freddy kruger.
Partly based on the confessions of a real life serial killer, it begins with a creepy montage of dead bodies, victims of the psychopathic Henry (Michael Rooker), a drifter who lives with Otis, a drug-dealing rapist who he met in prison and Becky, Otis' sister, who has recently moved to Chicago to find a job.
Henry has no preferred method of pattern to the murders he commits, seemingly to do them completely at random and soon introduced Otis into the act of killing, the two of them videotaping every gory detail. However, when Otis starts getting on Henry's nerves the two turn on each other and Henry leaves town with Becky.
The movie was made in 1986 and did 4 years on the festival circuits before getting a worldwide release. It's a stunning debut from it's director John McNaughton, creating a thrilling horror movie where there is no good whatsoever to counterbalance the evil and presenting a world too sickeningly disturbing to truly exist and too viscerally realistic to be denied.
This makes the Saw movies seem like a Disney cartoon.
Some of the film has aged quite awful, but for the most part it hasn't aged a bit.
Makes you think how terrifying this was back in its time.