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Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer

A movie directed by John McNaughton

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Henry~lets me and you go for a ride otis

  • Aug 20, 2000
Pros: I cannot in good conscience give one

Cons: the gore and senselessness of the movie

susidee thinks she has been in a too jovial mood here of late so she decided to trip over to Blockbuster and visit the horror selections. Well, my first ditty ‘Mosquito' has already been put to bed (those other two sick movies I swear I saw on TV), and I slipped old Henry in the VCR. Now susidee isn't opposed to a little blood and guts and even a good deal of gore, slashing, shooting and hanging. I mean everyone's gotta make a living, right? And I did sit through Titanic, so I figured I could do this gig in a heartbeat.

I was disgusted. I was appalled. I was horrified. I was sickened. Other than Natural Born Killers, I have never viewed a movie that was so tasteless and senseless. In the first five minutes of the movie you view 5 murders, in the most horrific manner and he is stalking another before the five minutes are up.

What manner of person decides this is reputable film fare? Where did the standards of the viewing public fall so far into the pits? When did we start demanding that we needed trash like this? I will admit I thought Natural Born Killers was an irresponsible movie, glorifying killing and giving young people a convoluted ideal of morals but Henry is despicable.

As if showing these shocking murders is not enough, you are also treated to rape and necrophilia. In addition, the rape scene between the girl (Tracy Arnold) and her brother (Tom Towles) was uncalled for and unnecessary. If, indeed, the story was to be about Henry and delving into what he passes for a mind, then this added insertion into the story was strickly for shock value.

If this piece were intended to give you insight into what makes a serial killer, what motives drive them, what causes them to seek their release, then perhaps it would have been acceptable. Instead it takes you headlong into horror and madness and shows no remorse nor any relief. I am by no means a prude nor am I squeamish but I had to turn this movie off several times to collect myself before I could continue watching it.

Indeed, you may ask yourself why I continued watching the movie if it sickened me so. Like many people I have a voyeuristic nature, I like to peek at the bad things. That could have been a partial reason in most circumstances. With this movie, however, I felt if I were going to tell you to absolutely not watch it, I had to have a credible reason.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the movie is the acceptance. Henry's victims accepted his presence so easily. They invited him into their homes and into their lives and willing let themselves be killed by their very acceptance. In addition, the acceptance by his cohort Otis (Towles), does little to dispel the fact that there are maniacal, deranged people walking down everyday streets doing their everyday jobs. And, in turn, the acceptance by the girl (Arnold), that incest, wife beating and murder are part of everyday life is chilling as well.

Now on the upside of the deal, I must really comment on the quality of the movie and the actors. It is a decidedly low budget movie but that doesn't defer from the quality of the movie. In fact, using the natural scenery of Chicago as a backdrop, the alleyways, the dirt, the corruption, the very vileness of it makes the low budget play well. The music was very disturbing. I don't know how to explain it, sort of a cross between shock and violence. It invaded you, in fact the quality and the suddenness of the music made it all that more terrifying. In addition, whenever a kill is viewed, the muted sounds in the background of the people screaming for their lives is very unsettling.

Michael Rooker as Henry was unbelievably haunting. He plows through this movie, committing these atrocities as if it were his job to be completed on a daily basis. He remains cool and calculating without showing expression. Perhaps it is his physical makeup but he appeared perfect for this part as he appears desensitized by the part he is playing. It is hard to imagine he is enjoying the part, unbelievable to think it didn't effect him in some way.

Tom Towles as Otis was even more terrifying than Henry. Not that he was all that sharp to begin with but with Henry's help he adapted easily to the role of killer and in fact, surpassed Henry in many instances. If it came my time to meet up with these two guys I would much prefer to meet up with Henry than Otis. Henry, at least, would give you a quick, clean death whereas Otis is sickly demented. And the way he cackles after a kill, chilling. His performance was flawless.

Tracy Arnold as Becky was demeaningly pitiful. Her acting was high caliber but the part was sludge. A nasty interpretation of how a woman can be manipulated and overwhelmed by the circumstances in their lives.

I cannot in good conscience recommend this movie to anyone because of the content. The acting abilities make it a worthy watch, but the content is so despicable that I would NR it if I could. I am amazed to see the many people that have given this movie a 5 bullet rating. Perhaps, again, like with Natural Born Killers, I am so disgusted with the product that I can't see the forest for the trees. The fact that they have made a sequel to this movie deeply disturbs me. Thanks for letting me rant once again.......


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April 11, 2011
I really liked this movie but I see your point, Susi... :)
April 11, 2011
Ya know, looking back perhaps I ranted a bit to much ... lol ... I recently watched a take-off of this, Otis, which was even worse and made Henry look almost innocent in the crims. thanks for the comment
More Henry Portrait of a Serial Kil... reviews
review by . April 10, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****     With every great horror film, we ask ourselves: what is fear? Most people nowadays think that scary is a word best used to describe a situation in which a paranormal entity or person jumps out and goes "boo". That is the case with some horror films, and even some great ones, but few of them get along that easily.    Now, I'm all for different kinds of horror. I just don't like when horror films try to sicken me, and nothing else. It would …
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Susi Dawson ()
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About this movie


HENRY PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, loosely based on the case of Henry Lee Lucas, a confessed serial killer, is a terrifyingly intimate journey into the twisted life of a murderous psychotic. As the blank-eyed Henry (Michael Rooker) drifts from place to place, he selects victims at random, slaughters them, and captures the brutality on videotape. When he is joined by his deranged roommate, a loudmouthed ex-convict named Otis (Tom Towles), the almost unfathomably malevolent acts multiply. <br> <br> John McNaughton's film, in the tradition of such classic studies of homicidal personality as PEEPING TOM and TAXI DRIVER, goes further than both of these movies in its flat refusal to tell the killer's story on anything other than the killer's terms. McNaughton is able to present the world Henry aimlessly traverses as Henry sees it--almost unendurably bleak and meaningless--and in doing so he allows his film to go as deep into the nightmarish mind of a killer as anything ever committed to celluloid.
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Cast: Tracy Arnold
Director: John McNaughton
Release Date: 1990
MPAA Rating: Unrated
DVD Release Date: Dark Sky Films (September 27, 2005)
Runtime: 1hr 30min
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