Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
This film gets lumped into the horror genre a lot, but it’s more of a psychological thriller. When I see this movie get lumped into “best horror movies of all time” lists, I want to scream. That’s how I was duped, so allow me to help you avoid this one.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a low-budget film with a documentary feel loosely based on the true story of serial killers Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole. Henry and his friend Otis, who he met in prison, get an apartment together. You learn about Henry’s background as he explains to Otis’s broken sister Becky that he killed his own mother because she had abused him as a child, offering a half-ass explanation to viewers as to why Henry kills randomly selected people without remorse. Henry’s story about how he killed his mother changes, leaving the viewer with the sense that either he has killed so many people that he can’t remember exactly how he did it, or he is lying for the sake of lying. Either way, Henry is not to be trusted.
Henry leads the way as he and Otis go on a killing spree. Henry teaches Otis the best ways to avoid being caught, such as to use a different “modus operandi” for each murder so that the police won’t be able to connect all of the murders to the same person.
The acting overall isn’t great, though Michael Rooker is believable as an emotionless, compassionless killer. Most of the murders in the film are not shown, just a before and an after. The film was clearly meant to disturb with an unnecessary rape scene between Otis and his sister, but what was also disturbing was that Henry came to her rescue. Was this meant to show that even serial killers have scruples? Or was it that he cared for Becky and was jealous? The movie went too far to humanize a man who kills for fun, though after Otis is killed and Henry and Becky make a plan to run away together, one of the last shots we see is of a bloody suitcase and Henry driving off alone. Presumably Becky’s body is in the suitcase, proving that Henry is incapable of love and that no one could ever trust a man like him.
This film is not worth a watch. There are plenty of far superior serial killer films. It’s simply disturbing, and nothing more.