Reviewed By Ross Hughes
Its what Fincher’s Zodiac only wish it could be……..
The only horror film that could have gone in the 90’s or 80’s countdown chart, made in 1986, not released until 1989, and then officially released in 1990, Henry the film, like the man himself, had a troubled birth but is now infamous, a horror classic that is raw and gritty, that will leave you feeling dirty and ashamed that you even made the time to watch it. The film has a striking power from within, and while you may love your horrors and claim to seen plenty of them, nothing can prepare you for the feeling of nausea that you get from the 86 minutes running time. Its not the violence on show that will make you squirm, its the fact that this is based on a true crime, its the thought that there are these real ugly humans out there with no function of remorse or the care for other people. Its quite easy to laugh and enjoy Jason hacking young virgins to death over in Camp Crystal, when this thing can rise from the dead so many times and wears a ski mask, its hard for you to believe in him. Here, the character could be your next door neighbour, the guy who sits next to you on the train to work, or the one you bump into in the street and apologise too. Henry does not need to wear a mask, he is a normal human with a thirst of blood, why need to play games with the victims when you can just kill them outright. Henry is real, the film feels real, and that fear you feel coming from the pits of your stomach? that’s real, now, are you enjoying this horror?
I have not met anyone who has seen this film and have said “oh I enjoyed that!” If you do, the run away, if they share any feelings and thought for the man of the hour, then they clearly need help! This is a perfect character study of a mad man, shot in a documentary kind of vibe that makes it feel so raw. It helps that a very young Michael Rooker is perfect as Henry, his delivery and execution of the role makes it one of the greatest ever put to film. He goes about his business in such a normal fashion, and his ice cold actions and manner is unsettling, and to his credit, he has managed to move away and forge a career in films, because he is soooo good in this, that typecast should have been a major problem in his CV.
Another shocking factor that needs to be considered, that while this has a notorious reputation, the violence itself is more directly implanted in the brain of the viewer. Newcomers brought up on the likes of Hostel will shake their head at the apparent lack of scenes which display hacked limbs and headless corpses, especially for a film with such a reputation. Even the beginning shot when we encounter a dead body, we do not see how this girl has died, but we know that she has been murdered, and when we see how Henry walking then having breakfast. Somehow we know he done, it, why? no idea, yes we hear sounds of women screaming and then see more victims, but its the presence of Henry that gives it all away. Lets make it clear, for all we know he could be the cop on the trail of the culprit, but one look of at his eyes we know. and again all praise to the actor in the role.
Henry is off to stay with his old prison buddy Otis (Tom Towles) whose sister Becky (Tracy Arnold) is also staying. Its here that Henry and Becky strike up a kind of relationship while at the same time showing her brother the art of being a serial killer! Its a three way partnership that can only bring doom and it all kicks off thanks to a family being slaughtered, a video tape showing the murders and a broken TV!
What happens is nothing you expect in a tradition horror movie. There are no wise jokes, no pop music playing at the background, no police chases or an outcome that will make the viewer finish the film happy. Its like we have just dipped into a brief moment in the life of a serial killer. There be no justice given out tonight, and for anyone who manages to survive the last quarter will no doubt fail with the final reel twist that shows the true horror of the man Henry is!
“I guess I love you too!” is a line that will shudder you with fear, along with the image of a suitcase at the side of the road, that will stay in your mind for such a long time!
Based on the true story of Henry Lee Lucas, there are scenes of total brutal reality, it starts with a tone of dread and just deepens as the running time ticks. Special praise must go towards Tracy Arnold who gives the film the sympathy that it does not require. Her portrayal of Becky is a a major plus for the film, and you can not help but feel sorry for the mess she has made of her life and that somehow this man Henry who she has just met, is the shinning light that will solve her problems. She is of course deeply wrong and totally does not get the man who she sees briefly as her protector.
There are brutal scenes of violence, and a moral message that is totally wrong, its the 80’s horror that stunned a studio that backed it, won every single critical acclaim and is no doubt one of the greatest horror films ever made.
Its what Fincher’s Zodiac could only wish to be!
[pt-filmtitle]Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer[/pt-filmtitle]