Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer (1990)


Henry: Newspaper Photo of a Serial Killer
Henry: Newspaper Photo of a Serial Killer

Genre: Crime Drama Horror Thriller

Starring: Michael Rooker (The Dark Half • The Bone Collector), Tom Towles (Night of the Living Dead (1990) Halloween (2007))

Directed By: John McNaughton (Wild Things • Mad Dog and Glory)

Overview: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, explores the life and crimes of a serial killer and the lives of his roomates Otis and becky - based on the true story of Henry Lee Lucas.

Sometimes this book that guides me in my film study from antique to modern, this 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die tome, sometimes it's a great inspiration. In the case of the Silent era, it fostered an interest in me that I never thought would be so all-encompassing. Then in the case of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, I wonder what the good Goddamn reason this even came close to being necessary to watch before I effin' croak.

Alright, I'm being too harsh. In the grand scheme of things Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is original. It goes places most films don't dare, and goes there with a close-up. The story is certainly one you won't see playing any old week at your local Cineplex - mainly because it's so sickeningly brutal.

The overall feel of the film is the rote, impoverished everyday with a healthy dollop of fated hopelessness. If immersing yourself into 82 minutes of hyper-realistic killings as done by a damaged monster of a man and the soulless tourist he takes along for the ride doesn't sound like a good time, well kiddies, this is absolutely not the film for you. And though the character of Otis is over the top and a little too convenient, this film's overall style is nonetheless reminiscent of the poignant docudrama Boys Don't Cry, an equally bleak and 'honest low-budget-looking' film.

Based on the life of convicted serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, what sets Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer apart is how the killings themselves are handled. We open with a series of dead victims, hearing the last moments of their struggle, suffering or fear. We know that Henry is that serial killer but we never witness him performing these acts until his roommate expresses an interest in killing. Henry acts as tour guide to the perverted little troll while Otis' sister, Becky, remains oblivious, perhaps even beginning to fall a little for Henry and his sad childhood tale.

At the same time, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer has pacing issues. When one makes an 'honest low-budget' film, one often tends to include unnecessary scenes or long cuts of sedentary minutia like driving, and we're always surrounded by oppressive scenery like the horrible little apartment these minimum wage people live in - it's nowhere near the caliber of boredom-inducing, but when combined with the subject matter, it might just cause you to squirm uncomfortably - though that may well have been the intent.


In the special features, you actually the production crew strip and stab woman to death - ah The Method!


In the special features, you actually the production crew strip and stab woman to death - ah The Method!


Performance: 8 Cinematography: 8 Script: 8 Plot: 8 Mood: 8

Overall Rating: 80% (A Picture, If Not Perfect)

So I take it back, I know the good Goddamn reason this was on the list, it's a quality production for the price, but don't go into Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer thinking this is some fun little thriller-horror film. It's far too realistic. In fact, I'd even put it under my list of Caution films, if I can trust the sentiment of the horror-loving girlfriend of Squish's words, "Ok I've had enough, enjoy this sick shit by yourself".

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