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Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a movie that seems built on intentional paradoxes. Its aesthetics are trashy and minimalistically mysterious. Its tone is deliciously comedic and genuinely horrifying. Its soundtrack is cheesy and unnerving. Its characters are flat as a board and completely, believably human. It has no plot and can leave you trying to interpret it endlessly. Its acting is amateurish and unforgettable.
And its lead, Henry, played by Michael Rooker, is pants-shittingly terrifying because there's nothing scary about him at all. He's not an unblinking supervillain like Hannibal Lecter, a charismatic manipulator like Catherine Trammell, an automaton who feels no pain like Jason or Michael Myers, or a robotic professional like Anton Chigurh or Gaear Grimsrud. He's an underemployed simpleton who feels fear and can get his ass kicked like anyone else and has barely any social skills beyond those required for basic goods-and-services transactions. No strangers on the street have any reason to give him a wide berth.
But Michael Rooker brings to life a character who knows that, and hates it, and will hurt you because of it. Henry's seething, raging, bullheaded inferiority complex makes him scarier than Hannibal could ever be; Rooker's ability to look and act really fucking angry is enough to give you nightmares even after you've just finished snickering at how he seems to have more in common with Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade than anyone else. Henry is pure brute hostility personified, a loser with nothing to lose, and his goofy banter and antics with Otis and Becky where he himself is usually the butt of the joke somehow manage to make him seem a thousand times worse.
It's a movie that will only appeal to a certain audience, but if you've got a taste for it, or just want to see Michael Rooker in his early years, you should go for it. Me, I simply love it.
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