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VINE VOICEon 8 November 2005
In reply to a previous reviewer who claimed this film was based on "a couple of dubious" charcters, I have to correct this. The film is loosely based on the acts of Henry Lee Lucas, a man who may or may not have been one of the world's worst serial killers (his confessions were rather confusing). He was definitely guilty of murder, and may be guilty of much worse. Whatever, dubious doesn't do this guy justice.
As to teh film, it is an excellent study of violence in films. The viewer is treated to a murder which is done in the "Hollywood" style. Henry and his cohort are set up as the heroes of the piece and kill a Bond-like villain. It is a comedic scene. Which makes the following murders all the more brutal as they are shot in a realistic and unpleasant way. The viewer is made to feel uncomfortable, we laughed at these guys before as they killed, now we want to look away.
Recommended.
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on 23 September 2004
"Henry" has a well deserved cult reputation. The films ability to shock and numb audiences is spoken in tones everytime its talked about. The film centres on a loner called Henry,who has murderous impulses. He lives with former prison mate, Otis, who sells drugs to young boys. Otis brings his sister, Becky, as she has left her abusive husband. This makes things complicated ans Otis feels neglected as he thinks Henry and her are getting close. Near the end, everything comes to a head and i wont give away the ending. This is loosely based on a real life killer named Henry Lee Lucas, who claimed to have killed 300 people. Despite its grim subject, this is essential yet disturbing viewing. Killers in other films like Hannibal Lecter are portrayed as anti heroic and quite comic at times. Henry, on the other hand, there is absolutley nothing to like about him. He kills with no remorse and it doesnt matter who dies either (even though they are mostly women). What makes this film effective is not the deaths we see, its the aftermath of some of them and the only thing we hear are the sounds of them dying. Its the power of using the imagination what makes it scary. This is not for everyone. But if you have a strong stomach or are curious, this is definitley something that you will not forget
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on 13 November 2000
I am refering to the VHS version and also I must point out to you that I have the UNCUT version which I bought from Amsterdam. The BBFC here cut out a very crucial scene that the director of the movie, John McNaughton was mystified by, due to the fact it explains so much about Henry and you the viewer, we all become voyeurs in Henry's twisted world. Anyway I am hoping that as it comes closer to the time we will find out if this DVD version is the same as the one in Europe and the US, I do hope so, being that I am totally opposed to censorship. First let me say that this movie is not for everyone, it's like no other serial killer movie you've seen. You are placed along side Henry and Ottis on a relentless murder spree, killing anyone, with anything. There are no heroic police detectives on there tail, no Denzal Washingtons or Jodie Fosters and above all NO HOLLYWOOD ENDING! This was the point of this movie, to show that it can happen to anyone, from any background or lifestyle. Henry is relentless, disturbing, frightning and just plain nasty. Serial Killer movies should have stopped here... The Oscar goes to Mr McNaughton. Watch it and be DISTURBED!
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on 20 June 2008
It has been years since I watched Henry on its initial theatrical release. I'm glad that I waited for an uncut release courtesy of the increasingly liberal BBFC to view it again.
Henry has lost none of it's power or intelligence over the years. As with "Peeping Tom" it raises questions of the viewer as to their motivations for watching, and responses to, the violence on show. The film has a grainy lo-fi edge that only adds to it's realism, but the cinematography is never less than stunning, as is the acting.
As it unfolds, the film becomes perhaps the definitive exploration of violence in American society. Henry's motivations as an extremely damaged product of a horrendous childhood are unflinchingly revealed in the intelligent and unsensational script, and we learn more than is comfortable about Ottis and Becky's family life. Dysfunctional families' roles in creating such warped humans has never been more brutally conveyed.
From a directorial point of view the variety of methods of depicting violence (from exploitative, almost comedic, gritty close-quarters grappling and gouging and ultimately horribly and skin-crawlingly sadistic in the infamous 'home invasion' sequence) is masterful, implicating the viewer in deeply uncomfortable ways in the mayhem, and it is a testament to McNaughton's skill that the whole holds together as well as it does.
This film is unlikely to please those seeking a slasher flick with a mounting bodycount, but is a fascinating study of repellent human beings (who have real emotional lives and interactions) for those seeking a cinema-verite journey to the heart of urban darkness. Henry is at once savage, frightening and deeply sad as an unflinching depiction of the lowest level of American society, the adult children of brutal messed-up families.
The extras are great too, allowing McNaughton to explain the concept, production of the film, as well as his influences and the long battle to release it free from the censors' interference.
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on 22 January 2012
Make no mistake this film will leave you wanting a hot bath after watching.
Yes in places Henry is a gruesome film, but that should not take away from the stunning performances here.
Led by Rooker, everyone does a superb job and at times this does not feel like a movie, more like access to a serial killers life.

It's a powerful film that certaintly stays with you. The final scenes though not bloody are still utterly disturbing. One of the all time great horror movies, no question.
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on 27 January 2007
This is a disturbing film. Yes it has the blood and gore elements but they are quite redundant. What makes this movie so horrible is partly the fact that these people could your neighbours or relatives and you wouldn't have a clue, and partly their indifference to what is going on. The acting is good considering what they must have shooting some of the scenes. The overall atmosphere of the film is very fascinating - apathetic, deranged, careless. Even if you don't sympathize with what they do or why they do it, you cannot help being dragged into their twisted minds. It's all the more disturbing to find out that the real life of Henry Lee Lucas was even worse than the events of the film.
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on 14 June 2016
I had this film on my "i want to see this" list. I shouldn't have bothered, and if I could, I would ask for my money back. It was one of the most boring films I have ever seen in my entire life. Even Michael Rooker couldn't save it. Atrocious!
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VINE VOICEon 24 April 2013
This 1986 film deals with the very American subject, of the man-next-door serial killer. Henry is not raving mad, and holds down a regular job at times. He and his friend Otis like to go out for a few beers, pick up prostitutes or hitch-hikers, and kill them.
Henry likes to consider his crimes, and to think through them, and in this manner, avoids detection. Otis becomes addicted to this life of murder, robbery, and rape; he eventually introduces his sister to his friend, and her and Henry become involved. The lead part is played by Michael Rooker, not famous by name, though recognisable from numerous film and TV roles. He brings a worrying normality to the role, often charming and completely reasonable, then chillingly sadistic, without remorse, or morals.
This film has its say on a part of society that, thankfully, we can only imagine; but a part that is with us, and around us, unseen but ever present. Most of the killings in the film are portrayed in the before and after, with what actually occurred, best left to the imagination. There is one very disturbing scene, where the friends terrorise a married couple, and it is viewed through the viewfinder of a camcorder, as the pair film their terrible deeds.
I could only watch this film once, and although it sounds like a strange thing to say, I am glad that I have seen it.
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on 1 June 2015
The story is boring if you want gorgeous people running from psychos and it's quite dated....

However if you're into true crime it's a fascinating film as it doesn't shy from some shocking scenes and the brutality isn't over done just thought provoking as there's not blood and guts everywhere.

Worth a watch!
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on 10 January 2008
There's only a handful of movies out there that you watch them and after wards you are left with this look of shock in your face. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is one of them. Based on the real life exploits of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, this films achieves a thing rare in todays horror films. It scares you.

Henry appears to be a regular guy. He works as an exterminator and lives in a little apartment in Chicago with his roommate Otis. They were both inmates in jail and now that they are both out, they decide to live in the same apartment. Things get complicated when Otis's sister Becky decides to move in with them because shes had some problems back home and because of her extreme loneliness she falls in love with Henry. Of course she doesn't know about his part time job as a vicious serial killer.

This movie really surprised me. As I watched it I couldn't help but think why the hell I had not seen this before. The reason is the film was made in 1986 and no studios were interested in it because of its graphic and realistic nature. Therefore it went straight to video in 1990. Well, it took me a while but I finally got around to watching this film and let me tell you, if you haven't seen this film and you call yourself a horror fan, well, get your ass off your couch and go and get it like right now! Its essential viewing my friends.

Now, some people might think that this film is all about gore and blood and the murders, and yes there's lots of that. But to me what really stood out were the performances. Michael Rooker does an incredible career making performance with Henry. Its strange but the way the character is portrayed he seems almost like a good guy when compared to for example his roommate Otis. Now there's a real scumbag if there ever was one, which brings me to another point about this movie. The characters are the lowest scumbags you will ever know! I mean, you don't want to meet these guys on the street. And the actor who plays Otis (Tom Towles), he really out did himself in making his character a real turd of a man. So my hats down to these two actors for doing some of the best acting I've ever seen on a horror movie. I also enjoyed Tracy Arnold playing Becky, Otis's sister. Her reactions towards some of the events rang very true, specially towards the end.

The writers of this film made sure that the tense moments were very effective. And strange thing is that some of the most tense moments have nothing to do with the actual murders being committed. I found the most tense moments were those between Otis and Henrys different personalities clashing or just the fact that you know that these two guys are certified lunatics so you know that any given situation can turn into a real bloodbath, every moment in this movie is just right there on the verge of going completely ballistic. So the intensity levels are high here thanks to some great performances and a solid script.

But whats a movie about a serial killer without some killings? Some well orchestrated murder set pieces? Well there's plenty of those in this movie since the real life Henry Lee Lucas reportedly killed hundreds of people. So right from the get go in the first scene you get a taste of Henrys work. Interesting thing is the way that the movie chooses to show you some of the killings. The director decided only to show the aftermath of the actual killing. He focuses on the corpse of the victim and then we chillingly hear how it all happened. I found this to be effectively creepy. By the way, John McNaughton the director used some really great sound effects to enhance the sequences. There's some gore here too, not everything is implied. And when things get gory...they get gory my friends. There's a scene involving a bathtub...wow. You'll see what I mean, don't wanna spoil any fun.

So, basically, this is one of those movies that makes you feel really uncomfortable as you watch it, but you just cant take your eyes off it. And at the same time you can appreciate how extremely well crafted this motion picture is. One thing is for damn sure, you wont feel like your watching the type of horror movie they make today. This is a solidly horrifying film that you wont soon forget.
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