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Sunday, October 06, 2013

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) - John McNaughton



This is an uber-graphic and sadistic inside look at a serial killers life. Not a mild mannered professional like Dexter Morgan. No Henry is more of a silent psychopath that thinks four steps ahead, most of the time. He is out of prison and trying to make it everyday by murdering every once in awhile. He stays with this creep Otis and his sister Becky. Both of which are horrible wretched people right off the bat. Throughout the movie, Henry develops feelings for Becky and defends her on several occasions. Especially from Otis the rapist, murdering convict that harasses his sister on a daily basis. There aren't really any characters that I would even want to side with. Everyone is horrible. You would think, maybe Becky could be the character that you identify with. But no. She is naive and you can tell that something just isn't right in her brain. The character development is superb in this movie.

It's no wonder that the whole movie focuses on the scum and low life that a serial killer would be associating with. Henry tries to walk the level path, but somehow knows his lot in life is to be a killer. He literally can't function without killing people. The film maker was shooting this during the hey day of slasher pictures and he really embellished with some of the murders. It has really hard to watch scenes that leave you wondering what the hell you just watched. If it weren't for the fantastically cheap eighties effects, the movie would have been vomit worthy. 

The movie has a really dark and slow pacing that doesn't drive you away. Rather, the imagery and theme draws you in and holds you hostage. You don't watch this movie, you witness it. The film feels so real. Michael Rooker does an amazing job of churning out a character I would never want to run into. Hell, that guy is perfect for it. I wouldn't want to run into his Mallrats character or Super character either. You want to turn it off during some scenes but can't. The daunting soundtrack helps too. Long and drawn out tones on a creepy synthesizer that sounds spooky as all hell on VHS. Everything about this movie is dirty and you cannot stop watching. Yeah, it has its downsides. The effects are questionable during some scenes but it doesn't take away from anything. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie. In a weird and twisted way, this movie was perfect. It scared me in the way that I never want to run into a serial killer in anyway, whatsoever. I don't know if I would re-watch the movie. It is definitely something that you have to sit down and view. There is actually a good deal of gore, the movie is extremely graphic and violent. I think it qualifies as an ultra-violent slasher movie. I recommend it to anyone that wants to maybe pair this up with Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon.

Director: John McNaughton
Country: USA

Did ya know...
Henry, the main character, is based on real life serial murderer Henry Lee Lucas. Many aspects of fictional Henry's backstory are parallel with Lucas'. The other characters are based on real people as well, both Becky and Otis. The movie was completed in 1986, but not released until 1989! However, during that time VHS circulated and became a hit. Filmed in 16mm and shot in 28 days.

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