review for Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer on AllMovie

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
by Brendon Hanley review

Nothing if not disturbing, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer was a response to the slasher movies of the 1980s. There are none of the special effects or plot conventions of such horror series of the time as Friday the 13th, Halloween, and Nightmare on Elm Street. Instead, the movie is almost completely detached and non-judgmental towards its subject, as hollow a creation as you're ever likely to find as the focus of a movie, played with a chilliness of blizzard-like proportions by Michael Rooker. There is no humanization of Henry. He has no passion, no reasoning, no existential quandary. The vacuous feeling is reminiscent of Peter Bogdanovich's 1968 rooftop killer movie, Targets. Henry was finished in 1986, but the MPAA refused to give it anything less than the dreaded 'X' rating. It sat on the shelf for three years until filmmaker Errol Morris sponsored the movie at the Telluride Film Festival. The reaction at the time was volatile, and, even with the subsequent success of such gruesome movies as Silence of the Lambs, Henry may remain a bit too authentic for most tastes.