Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990)

What was I getting myself into when I was watching this piece of work!!!

Serial killer Henry (Michael Rooker) serves as mentor to dim-witted fellow killer Otis and as the object of his sister’s affections. Trouble is, Henry’s heart is too hard for friendship to penetrate.

This film was made in 1986, but couldn’t get an R rating from the MPAA ratings board. Finally, in 1990 it went into limited nationwide release, and to be truly honest I can see why it took so long for many people to be so shocked and disturbed.

There are plenty of scenes within this film that are absolutely hard to take. There is one scene that sticks into my mind the most, and that’s when they videotape a murder that they did. That scene disturbed me the most and really did sell the whole disturbing level for me.

I liked especially how the film showed us a passionate and also great look at Henry, the serial killer. There are people out there who do stuff like this just for simple fun, and its time for us to understand that they are people just like you and me. The films murders and the whole element of the film was more serious than just making a joy-ride of these slashing murders.

The only reason I give this profoundly upsetting film only a mild rating, is because it has lost some punch over the years, with the subsequent release of so many even grislier pictures. Even this is upsetting, since it just adds to the film’s overall questioning tone. What kind of world is it, that can make acts like these, and people like Henry and Otis, seem almost normal, hideous acts of pointless murder merely boring and annoying, and the callous actions of these men almost justifiable in the face of the harshness and futility of life as they know it? The camera offers no suggestions or comment, instead just rolling on the action mechanically, like Otis’s camcorder, and offering no view of any better world, one that must exist somewhere outside the half life of ignorance and violence that they take for granted.

Rooker as Henry is great here. He gives us the unsympathetic and at the same token very well-mannered person. Every scene he has is just creepy, and overall disturbing. Rooker never loses his touch in any of the scenes and I just found myself to be fully memorized by the way he handled this character.

Consensus: Though it’s not for everyone, Henry is disturbing, violent, harsh, and ultimately smart. It features a great look at a serial killer that has no remorse, and shows us how these people are just like you and me.



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