Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

Henry likes to kill people, in different ways each time. Henry shares an apartment with Otis. When Otis' sister comes to stay, we see both sides of Henry: "the guy next door" and the serial killer.


Wow. That was something.

First of all, this is a really good movie. It's usually mentioned in the context of disturbing movies, but it really runs the gamut. It's disturbing first and foremost, but it can be oddly touching, and darkly comedic. Michael Rooker is a horrifying villain, tortured romantic, and straight man all in the same movie, and he pulls it off incredibly well. Henry is a truly great character, and that is owed mostly to Rooker's performance. Now, I don't want to discredit Tom Towles and Tracy Arnold, because they're also splendid. It's a real performance movie, as the direction is very subdued. It certainly goes for a natural style, which I found very effective in putting you in the same room as the characters.

Now, maybe some of you are wondering why I called this movie "comedic." It is in the same way Lolita is comedic. You have these horrible, disgusting people who perpetrate unforgivable crimes throughout the movie, and then you see them bickering over a VHS camcorder. The horrendous nature of their other actions just seemed to heighten the understated hilarity of their everyday interactions. And comedic scenes also amplify the shear torment of some of the rougher scenes. Most of the murders are nothing you haven't seen in any violent movie, but I think anyone who has seen this movie knows that one scene that made me pause the movie for a minute. That one scene is the perfect example of what makes this movie great. You experience absolute torture watching them commit atrocities, and then they go on with their day as if nothing happened. It's a perfect melding of themes and story.

Of course, no movie is perfect, and if I have one gripe with Portrait, it's the score. It's cheesy and melodramatic, and sounds like the music you'd hear in, like seithscott said, a TV movie. It would've been so much stronger with no music. Just absolute cold.

That complaint aside, it's a truly phenomenal movie that is certainly not for the young'uns. Hell, it's probably not for most adults. But for a sick f like me, it's like a rollercoaster: it's a good time that also makes you feel like throwing up.

What a way to start a month of horror.

a year ago


Very interesting movie. Acting is also great, in a disturbing way :)

9 years ago


Good movie, Michael Rooker is excellent, feels like a TV movie but still very good.

9 years ago

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