[REVIEW] Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Synopsis: Henry, a drifter, commits a series of brutal murders, supposedly operating with impunity.
Masterpiece. That’s the review. This movie is a masterpiece because it tells a story that reflects the worst side of humanity and instead of turning tragedy into a gore-filled cartoon, it stays real enough to reaffirm that fear is instinctual for a reason. It’s easy to forget what an actual terrible person is because every headline we see today is some form of character assassination. Sometimes we need to look at real evil to remember the difference between political jockeying and cold-blooded homicide.
Henry is a mysterious character, so much so that he becomes charismatic. There’s something about the strong silent type that draws attention, even if you know that something ugly exists behind the mask. He has little to no money, works odd jobs, and lives with Otis, a former cell-mate from prison. When we as the audience are brought into Henry’s world we see his salad days. It’s all ruined of course with the introduction of Otis’ sister into the situation, a former exotic dancer escaping an abusive relationship. Feelings start to develop between Henry and the new roommate but what do those feelings mean to a psychopath? Henry is a serial killer and that’s what this movie, as the title states, tries to portray.
The movie doesn’t pull punches when showing violence and blood. It’s a thin line between terrifying and campy and Henry, the movie not the character, stays on the right side of that line. You never get the urge to laugh like you would with a cheesy horror movie because the world established always feels real. Every character that dies feels like someone’s wife, or husband or son or daughter. Some victims are left in more disturbing states than others and the extremeness of it all complements Henry’s quiet demeanor very well. You see Henry, then you get to see what’s going on in his head through the “art” he leaves behind. In his mind he’s an artist, a tortured soul that needs to express himself through human mutilation. We as the audience will never understand such a person, but we need to accept that he exists and use our judgement accordingly. Don’t get in that car, don’t stop by the side of the highway to help a travel with his broken-down vehicle, lock your doors and windows. This movie isn’t designed to make you irrationally afraid, but it will definitely make you be just a bit more cautious in life.
Shot on a minuscule budget, this movie from start to finish sucks you in and never let’s go of your attention. This is the kind of movie that budding filmmakers need to watch because budget should never be an excuse for why a movie doesn’t look like something special. The director and co-writer, John McNaughton, does such a good job that it’s almost frustrating how talented you need to be to make a great film. The bar is set that high. Another highlight is Michael Rooker, who gives Robert DeNiro and his portrayal of Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver a run for his money. Rooker’s performance could very easily have been overblown and become corny, instead, he just shows us a character that doesn’t have much to talk about. And for some reason, those are the people we want to listen to the most.