September 21, 2023

If You Liked That, You’ll Love This: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

The original Town That Dreaded Sundown was a gritty, small-budget slasher film about a hooded stalker and his unfortunate victims in small-town America. Well, swap out Texarkana for Chicago and switch the anonymous masked murderer for a young Michael Rooker in his first professional acting role, and you get Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986). And if you enjoyed the violent, low-fidelity vibes of The Town That Dreaded Sundown, then you’ll undoubtedly get something out of this film.

Henry is scary, but maybe not in the same way as the Phantom Killer. He doesn’t have the pretense of hiding his identity or targeting lovers in secluded areas. His victims are random, the methods are arbitrary, but his violence is grim. We never quite know who Henry will kill or why, so there is a level of tension that matches the Phantom Killer’s surprise appearances in his film.

And just like with the murders in Texarkana, Henry is based on a real-life murderer–Henry Lee Lucas. Details are changed and embellished to fit the film’s narrative, but the chilling knowledge that some of this film was based on something that actually happened is there. It’s an intense, grungy, ugly film. Much like the Phantom Killer in Texarkana, Henry in Chicago is a chilling crime spree that should hold the attention of most horror fans.

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