Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) Review
Written by: jpjmoffett
Description: Loosely based on the testimony of convicted killer Henry Lee Lucas, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer follows the bloody, gore-lined trail of a sporadic, nomadic killer named, that’s right, Henry. Henry’s roommate Otis, and Otis’ sister Becky are very quickly affected by Henry’s psychopathic proclivities. There is however, very little in the way of plot in this film and no character arc whatsoever.
The Good: Henry is a genuinely creepy and at times, unnerving film. Rick Paul’s art direction perfectly captures the brutal, simplistic lifestyle of the film’s bottom-feeding characters. It seems that everyone in this movie is deranged to some extent and the sets and wardrobe embody it perfectly. The scenes are ugly and gritty, the people are ugly and gritty, and the situations go from ugly and gritty to holy-shit in record time.
The dismal lighting and grisly sound effects add tremendously to the stark brutality of this film; it’s murder without fanfare, without reason or purpose. Nothing is glorified here, everything is dirty, bad, and twisted. The fact that most of the musical score comes in the form of practical (on-screen source) music makes it a great deal more realistic. In fact, the sound in general is seriously sick throughout the film, especially in the bathtub dismemberment scene, which sounds truly disturbing. Though now that I think about it, there really probably isn’t a cheerful way to depict the decapitation and dismemberment of an incestuous alcoholic in a filthy bathtub. Nor should there be, I guess.
The dialogue, often a source of woe in horror films, is both brilliantly written and expertly executed in Henry. The horror of these characters, and their insane actions, lies in the utter simplicity of their minds, which is perfectly made manifest by their words. The characters in Henry are like sharks in that they are cold, unsympathetic, and completely dangerous. Most of all, they are also random; killing on a moment’s notice as the desire strikes them. Michael Rooker, Tom Towles, and Tracy Arnold are all phenomenal actors who imbue their roles with real pain and emotional content.
The Bad: There is no plot to this film. The lead character (I hate to use the word protagonist to describe Henry) ends the film just as he began: a nomadic serial killer with no thought about yesterday or tomorrow. The only way the audience knows that there has been a story at all is by the introduction of Otis and Becky whose lives have seemingly no effect on Henry by the film’s final scene. As a complete sociopath, obviously Henry would not be bogged down with trivialities like love and friendship. Kind of like the way this movie is not bogged down with character arcs or plot driving devices.
Still, it is a shock/gore film and should not be confused with more serious cinema that attempts to encapsulate and portray real human dramas, like Spice World.
The Ugly: As mentioned above, Henry is what it is: an unnerving look into the life of a complete and total psychopath. The name of the film says it all and honestly lives up to it.
Old School: Probably every old-school horror fan on earth has already seen this one. I’m guessing that you liked it too, you sickphuck. So did I.
New Blood: There are some slow parts in this film (like the endless green cruise to Whacker Dr.) but overall the movie has enough weirdness and death to keep younger audiences’ attention. Maybe. Take your Ritalin first to make sure though.
To See or Not to See? Rent, buy, pirate or con? Buy this one. Rent it first if you’re a sissy consumer, but really you’ll just be saving yourself the rental fee by just going ahead and buying it straight out. This is the kind of film that changes every time you see it, so own it. And if you’re not completely satisfied, send your complains to jpjmoffettpwnsu for a complete refund.