Saturday, October 13, 2018

31 Days of Dread--Day 13

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer; 1986; written by Richard Fire & John McNaughton; directed by John McNaughton

Thirty-plus years have only added to the air of grime and desperation that pervades Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. This is not a shortcoming, since it only serves to make this tale of a murderous drifter that much more brutal and disturbing.

Michael Rooker stars as Henry, who shares a dingy apartment with his prison pal, Otis, and his sister Becky, on the run from an ugly divorce. All three occupy society's lowest rungs and are doing what they can--and must--just to hang on.

If there's a fourth major character in the film, it's the city of Chicago itself, which appears to be in similarly bad shape. It's a city of perpetually cloudy skies, rusted-out cars, cheap diners and run-down gas stations, all of it captured in low-budget grainy images reminiscent of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Henry's murderous impulses form a vortex at the story's center, one that soon pulls in the other two--Otis as an apprentice, Becky into a dark romance. To say that neither survives doesn't really give anything away. By the film's end, we understand that Henry's time in Chicago was just a stop along a bloody trail, one extending far behind and ahead of him.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is available on Amazon Prime and streaming rental.

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