Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Part 2

Yeah, I Killed My Momma. Then I Killed Everybody Else’s Momma.

This 1996 follow-up to one of the most harrowing horror films of the past 20 years is getting a belated (but limited) theatrical release in some cities, though it’s supposed to be making its way to home video soon. Though not mentioned on screen, advertising material uses a further title tagline: “Mask of Sanity”.

The sequel picks up right where the original left off, with nondescript serial killer Henry (Neil Giuntoli) wandering out beyond the Chicago city limits somewhere near Aurora. He lands a job cleaning port-a-johns, and hooks up with a new family, courtesy of his co-worker Kai (Rich Komenich). Kai and his wife Cricket (Kate Walsh), along with his emotionally crippled sister-in-law Louisa (Carri Levinson), seem to live a normal white trash existence – but Henry soon discovers that Kai is hiding a secret career as an arsonist-for-hire. After Henry joins up as Kai’s partner in the arson business, it doesn’t take long before Kai is initiated as Henry’s partner in casual murder.

Though none of the principal contributors are on hand (except for composer Robert McNaughton – and many others here have participated in other John McNaughton projects), first-time director Chuck Parello does a decent job of approximating the chilly, grubby underside of Chicagoland that McNaughton illustrated so well in his own feature debut. This American release has obviously been trimmed a bit – the original has been available in Europe for some time, and hopefully will be restored for video here – but there’s nothing to indicate that there’s anything here to equal the shocking power of the original.  Henry never achieved its terror in its use of gore. In fact, it earned its landmark NC-17 rating on attitude alone.

Still, if you haven’t seen the original (and you should), this sequel should be creepy enough to disturb your dreams for a while.

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