Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer – Discussion

Well, I remember when I first saw this film. I found it the video section at the library on post when I was stationed in Eygpt. I was so blown away by the film. I kept it. I studied this film that did so many incredible things in 83 minutes with an obvious low budget. I think this was the film that made me realize that I could maybe create a horror film one day. I didn’t understand what I was seeing except that this film was as special as it was unlike anything I had ever seen. In fact, I don’t think I have seen anything like it until the recently released The Golden Glove.

Well, let me breakdown what went into making this film special. Let’s start with the montage of his previous murders. It was sublime how John McNaughton displayed the crimes committed by Henry with a panning shot of the still life expression of the victim that was accompanied by the soundtrack of the crime as it took place. I don’t know where he got that from or what inspired it. But it was as impressive as a shot that I have ever seen. It is my opinion that the lack of seeing the violence prepped your mind for what was to come. This tactic was done again. Only to be followed by some of the most vicious scenes in the horror genre.

The brutality that was there. Even when it was a scene as simple as Henry and Otis sharing food and coffee after coldly murdering two prostitutes. That proceeding scene was just out of the blue. It was something that most viewers were not expecting. That is was makes the film so special. It was just something so different. Nothing about it fit into anything we had ever seen. For me, it must have been like what TCM felt to viewers. It is hard for me to conceptualize how that must have felt. Because by the time Henry came out. We were knee-deep in what carnage on the screen looked like. The graphic nature was just so disturbing and there was nothing comical about unlike TCM. You were not going to bump into the Sawyer family. However, you could bump into Henry and or Otis.

Anything about the film. Was the tag-teaming of two sociopaths to commit murders on an unexpecting population. Scream did this. But it was different and comical. I think everything about this approach turned the normal approach on its head. If you look at other films like Mother’s Day and TCM it is hard to take the violence seriously. Even when it is done effectively it still lacks the true point of what makes this film so terrifying. The randomness of the victims. All it takes is a verbal slight, catching a person’s eye, or just opportunity. That is what helps make this film so scary.

Let’s talk about Becky. Jesus Christ, she tailored made to be one of his victims. Talk about not running away from a situation when you should. There was nothing about her living situation that suggested it was a safe place. Even with Henry being a protector at moments. She still had a front-row seat to see that something was differently wrong with him and her situation. Yet, she shrugged them all off. Was it because she was already broken and was less inclined to run away? No matter how many times I watch the film I can’t find an answer that makes sense. I mean Otis was not a protector and it was implied he wasn’t bothered by her past ordeals. Not to mention he did to her what probably had been done to her so many times by her father and most likely other men including Otis. Then add how she witness Henry’s violence side she just totally submitted and embraced him even more. As bizarre as her actions were. They also seem so understandable. She was tailored made to end up as she did. Crazy.

Obviously this is a must-see for any horror fan. It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But it deserves a viewing.

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Author: Wil Munny

I hope you have not seen any film that I discuss. It is better that way.

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