Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer ★★★★½

Serial killers are fascinating creatures, and people are naturally drawn to the twisted psyche that lurks behind their menacing eyes. It's natural to want to understand, even on a surface level, the demented force that compels someone to kill impulsively.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a movie that puts you in world where there is nothing but carnage and apathy. Slasher films, and horror films in general saw a big boom in the 80s, but none I've seen have been as grounded and grotesquely voyeuristic as this one.


The film doesn't really try to give reason to the carnage as much as it just puts you in it out of context. The opening shots of the film show the aftermath of murdered victims, while the audio of their last moments plays over the haunting stillness of their bodies, twisted in a final moment of agony while the camera lingers.

This is effective, since it is juxtaposed against the fairly normal introduction of Henry himself. He is sharing an apartment with his friend, Otis, and Otis's sister Becky. They seem to get along well, but the deeper we delve into the personal lives of the characters the darker things become, and the character of Otis who on the surface seems to be a bumbling redneck who is friendly enough, quickly becomes as much of a monster as Henry himself. In a normal film, you would think the overall arc would focus on the character of Otis's downfall, but his personality does not invoke feelings of sympathy. He was always a monster, and Henry was just the catalyst to bring it to the surface.

Michael Rooker absolutely nails at as the titular Henry. His stoicism and quiet demeanor leaves audiences members searching for a hint of compassion in the monster that exists inside of him, and there are parts in the film where you are led to believe that that side is there, but by the end, you see him for who he truly is.

If i have one major complaint about the movie, it's the score. It uses a lot of low tone-bass that was common for the era, but it feels out of place here. The sounds are sinister to be sure, but these sounds are more fitting in a John Carpenter b-movie than they are for something as brutal and unflinching as this. The film is far more effective in silence than it is when the score kicks in, reminding you that you are, in fact, watching a film.

So overall, I give the movie a four and a half star rating. It holds up well, this was my first time viewing it and the depravity of it still got to me. It's not necessarily something I would recommend to the average moviegoer, but for the people that can handle it, this is an extremely well-made character piece