HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER surely ranks as one of the most frightening and disturbing films ever made. An angry and raw independent feature, HENRY begins with a creepy montage of shots of dead bodies. The corpses are the victims of Henry (Michael Rooker), a lowlife drifter who
looks for victims while driving around in his green Impala. Rooker murders with knives, guns, rope, even his hands--he has no preferred method or pattern.
Rooker lives with Towles, a degenerate he met while in prison (for killing his mother) who now works in a gas station and sells drugs on the side. When Towles's sister (Arnold) comes to Chicago, she stays with Towles and Rooker while she looks for a job; meanwhile, Rooker, who works as a bug
sprayer, and Towle continue to murder people at random, videotaping every detail, until they start to get on each other's nerves. When Rooker can no longer stand Towles's stupidity and sloppiness, the two argue; meanwhile, Arnold quits her job in a hair salon and asks Rooker to move away with her.
A stunning feature debut from director John McNaughton, HENRY tells its horrible story with chilling straightforwardness. Presenting his sick characters nonjudgmentally and without shrinking from gory details, McNaughton creates a world in which there is no good to counterbalance evil, where incest and rape are permitted and murder is an acceptable way to relieve tension. Providing no "good" characters to identify with--not even a cop to offer us hope--and ending on a bitter, ugly note, HENRY leaves viewers emotionally drained and deeply, deeply disturbed. McNaughton succeeds in showing just how vulnerable anyone can be to someone like Henry, a frightening reality few will want to contemplate.
No film in recent memory has tapped into primal, visceral fear as HENRY does, with its vision of a depraved world that seems at once too horrible to exist and too realistic to be denied. Hard to watch (though at times it's bizarrely and blackly funny) and definitely not for the squeamish, HENRY
will prove unforgettable for the brave souls who do see it. A major achievement in independent filmmaking, HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER is a horror masterpiece.
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- Released: 1989
- Rating: NR
- Review: HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER surely ranks as one of the most frightening and disturbing films ever made. An angry and raw independent feature, HENRY begins with a creepy montage of shots of dead bodies. The corpses are the victims of Henry (Michael R… (more)