REVIEW: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990)


Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer: A

Apparently, the director of this movie was commissioned to make a run-of-the-mill exploitation slasher flick with a budget of $110K and less than a month for shooting. What he made instead was a profoundly twisted psychological study of the mind of a murderous sociopath. People who watch this movie expecting to see meaningless carnage and boobs are going to be surprised to find that it is an actual movie… with carnage and boobs.

Henry, played by Michael Rooker, whom everyone likes to J-O over since his role on The Walking Dead, is a wandering serial killer who currently lives in a shitty apartment with his prison buddy, Otis and Otis’s sister Becky. Early in the film, we are given clues about how great of a serial killer Henry is. The film opens with a montage of freshly murdered corpses rotting in broad daylight in various locations, suggesting that Henry has been crafty enough to pull off a string of daytime killings in various locales without being caught. Oh, all the corpses are women, by the way.

The film then shows us two sides of Henry; when Henry hangs out with Otis he is an evil fuck. He commits a double murder in front of him which simultaneously worries and fascinates Otis. Henry then begins mentoring Otis as his serial killer understudy and they go on a super-wicked killing spree together. When he is with Otis’s sister however, he is apparently frail and kind. The two bond over childhood traumas and soon grow attached. Lots of tasty daddy/mommy issues here as well as neck-vein inducing tension; we keep remembering the montage of dead girls every time Henry and Becky are alone. Giving us this vulnerable side to Henry and juxtaposing it with his reptilian personality make him a really memorable round character and it creates a lot of suspense in the film.

Otis gets REALLY into murdering. Henry shares with Otis (and the audience) all the tricks to efficient killing and avoiding detection/capture. The most important rules seem to be 1) maintain a nomadic lifestyle and 2) ensure each killing has a different apparent motive / type of victim. The matter-of-fact way in which an efficient method for killing is explained, like the steps to a cake recipe, is chilling. Maybe the most famous / fucked up scene in the film is where Henry and Otis murder a family, film it, and then kick it and watch the footage and react as if they are watching Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, really hammering home the point that the most important “ingredient” for this recipe is a sociopathic inability to feel remorse.

The ending is so fucked up and great. I have no problem ruining shitty movies for you. For example, in Devil, the old lady is the Devil. See? Who cares? In Dark Skies, the older brother was the one whom the aliens had been visiting and intending to abduct. Fuck it. You have to check out Henry, though. I won’t spoil it.

3 thoughts on “REVIEW: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990)

  1. Pingback: MOVIE REVIEW | Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) – Bored and Dangerous

  2. Good review. This is a difficult movie to nail down. I did it for my blog a while back. I found myself not knowing how to feel about all of it at the end. It is a great movie though.

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