Cliff’s review published on Letterboxd:
"How about those Bears?"
"Fuck the Bears."
Who the fuck am I, that when I fancied watching something easy, unchallenging and light to watch late on a Friday night, I picked Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer?
I mean, I've seen it so many times that it feels like an easy watch, but it remains perhaps the most chilling film I've ever seen. But it's very funny with it: Henry & Otis make an excellent comedy double-act, Becky adds pathos to it, and there are a ton of small, funny details throughout - in the dialogue, the wardrobe, the caricatures, even some of the props. There's even some slapstick! Yet none of the black comedy makes it any less chilling, and that's why this is such a fucking brilliant picture.
I could probably write a whole essay about those small details that amuse me, from Henry's boss's 70s pimp suit to that repeated line near the end, "Do you want to listen to the radio?", both of which cause shivers just as much as they make me laugh.
I remember the first time I saw it, at the Odeon in Sutton in 1992, and even though it was shorn of some of its most disturbing images back then, it was a memorable experience to watch something as creepy and bleak and dark and brutal and horrifying as this at an Odeon multiplex, in a shopping mall.
Everything in this film is perfect, most importantly the casting of Michael Rooker, Tracy Arnold and Tom Towles, and their costumes, and the doom-laden score, and the storyline, and fucking everything. Even the over-the-top "Otis... plug it in" scene works in the context of this film. Whether it's being ludicrous or realistic, it all works, perhaps more so than if it was relentlessly grim instead.
If I had to criticise it, then perhaps Henry's crimes and motive (or apparent lack of motive) aren't true to life, but I only say that having listened to over 40 episodes of the excellent All Killa No Filla podcast, which reveals that serial killers tend either to be less relentlessly prolific, or more consistent in their targets. This fictionalised version of Henry Lee Lucas basically treats killing as his day-to-day job, albeit not one that earns him much money. But then, this is a movie.
... A perfect, perfect movie.