Tuesday, June 21, 2011

#319. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

Directed By: John McNaughton

Starring: Michael Rooker, Tracy Arnold, Tom Towles

Tag line: "Yeah, I Killed My Mama..."

Trivia:  At the time he auditioned for the lead in this film, Michael Rooker was working as a janitor

Henry Lee Lucas was, at one time, considered the most prolific serial killer in American history. Convicted of murdering eleven people over the course of several decades, Lucas actually confessed to hundreds of killings, many of which the authorities could never connect back to him. His first known victim, for whom he served 10 years in prison, was his alcoholic mother, a prostitute who allegedly made her young son watch as she had sex with dozens of men. His is a truly terrifying story, and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, a 1986 film based loosely on the life and killings of Henry Lee Lucas, matches that terror bloody step by bloody step. 

Released on parole for the murder of his mother, Henry (Rooker) is now living in Chicago, where he shares an apartment with his friend and former prison cellmate, Otis (Tom Towles). By all accounts, Henry is just a regular guy, but his casual behavior masks a dark secret; Henry is a serial killer, one who picks his victims entirely at random. Before long, he's teamed up with Otis, teaching him the finer points of murder, including how to get away with it (“if”, Henry explains to Otis, “you strangle one, stab another, and one you cut up, and one you don't, then the police don't know what to do”). What complicates the situation is the arrival of Otis' kid sister, Becky (Tracy Arnold), who moves in with the two on a temporary basis. Becky takes an instant liking to Henry, and Henry, in turn, goes out of his way to make Becky feel at home, knowing all the while he may, at some point, have to kill her to protect his secret. 

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a nerve-wracking film, made all the more so by the low-key performance of Michael Rooker, who has the look, the demeanor, the very presence of an everyman. In the film's first scene, Henry is sitting in a restaurant, finishing up a meal. He compliments the waitress' smile as he pays his bill, walks out the door, then hops into his car and drives off. We follow along with Henry on his drive, during which we're also treated to a montage of grisly images; a woman (Mary Demas), naked and bloody, lying dead in the middle of a forest, a husband (Ted Kaden) and wife (Elizabeth Kaden) murdered in their place of business, and another nude young lady (Denise Sullivan) whose corpse is floating face-down in a shallow creek. We have only just met Henry, yet his connection to these killings is obvious, and when, in the next scene, he stalks a woman (Monica Anne O'Malley) to see where she lives, we know full well the fate that awaits her. As played by Rooker, Henry is the worst kind of monster, a murderer who blends seamlessly into the background at diners and coffee shops, all the while sizing you up for the kill. 

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is the frightening tale of a murderer you never see coming. It is a film that will get into your head, under your skin, and have you looking over your shoulder from time to time to make sure nobody's following. With a magnificent turn by Michael Rooker and a gritty, documentary-like flavor, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer has earned a place among the elite of the horror genre.


Anonymous said...

whoa!!!!! snazzy web site and a gorgeous design at horror jungle!!!!! one week left until this new podcast can't wait!!!!!

these horror movies like henry are boring to me but don't fret mr shock i am a huge fan of yours!!!!!

bud -vamp of horror- erghs

Anonymous said...

Hiya Doctor;Very impressive stuff with all the hosts on horror jungle. That sounds really fun&exciting with plenty of horror recs. How many movies are you going to be reviewing per episode or cant you talk about it?


Anonymous said...

Finished listening to EP. 16 the final one and I am CLAPPING out loud for 3 reasons.

1 - 8 hosts on Horror Jungle is BIG per show alot of opinions this too my knowledge has never been done on a regular show (I really loved the Bonus EP 10.)

2 - NO more of that loser Mr. Mortis, that dawg got unbearable.

3 - Old Planet Macabre episodes remain around. I enjoy going back after I see the movies I buy.

Hurry up the 28th I am curious about the new personalities.

My words,

Dave Becker said...

Thanks for the comments!

@bud: Thanks for the kind words regarding the Jungle Horror site. I couldn't agree more...it looks incredible! Billchete's done a tremendous job putting it together.

As for Henry, I certainly wouldn't classify it as boring (just the opposite, in fact), but no matter...if it's not a film for you, so be it! Thanks for hanging in there with us during the recent turmoil, and for being such a loyal fan of the show. It's greatly appreciated.

@Bruce: We're going to be reviewing 2 films as a group, then there will be 8 separate recommendation segments, and one "bonus" recommendation at the end for a total of 11 films in total.

And I'm with you...this is gonna be fun! Thanks for stopping by, and for listening.

@Urgey: Thanks for the kind words, and I share your excitement. It's gonna be fun! And with the number of hosts, it WILL be like a bonus episode every time out! Thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

gradings dr
horror jungle = a+
8 hosts = a+
more horror movies = a+
profile pics = a+
a week away = a+
only thing i would like to ask is go weekly i need my horror fixes

Klaus said...

This is one disturbing looking film. It's on the 1001 list which i'm working through, and i'm not looking forward to the experience.

Dave Becker said...

Thanks for the comment!

And I appreciate the grades. Looks like we're doing alright! As for a weekly show, if it does become a reality, it'll be a few months before it happens.

Dave Becker said...

@Klaus: It is certainly disturbing, and actually becomes more so afterwards, when you have some time to digest it. Even so, I wouldn't let it hold you back...it's a really riveting watch!

Anonymous said...

the new concept of horror jungle is pleasing got my itunes ready and my earbuds sizzling when it hits the website

Dave Becker said...

Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you're excited about Horror Jungle. First episode hits in 6 days!

Thanks again.

assholeswatchingmovies.com said...

I haven't seen this in ages! man you really are prolific.

Dave B. said...

Thank you! I appreciate that (and thanks also for stopping by)