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Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer part 2 (1998)
29th Aug 06
Henry has moved on to smalltown USA where he takes a job cleaning shit and blowing up properties as part of an insurance scam. Oh yeah, and he's still killing innocent people.
Those of you who are getting sick to the teeth with pointless remakes must be in emotional turmoil at the sight of equally futile sequels. Although John McNaugton’s original film is left open for a sequel, it’s a work of such dignity and importance that any attempt to carry on the story, however well intentioned, comes across like inane sacrilege. For a start, where is Michael Rooker? He is Henry. He became Henry. And that’s who we believed he was.
And here is the not-so long awaited sequel. Helmed by serial killer enthusiast Chuck Parello, it assumes that you already know who Henry is, what he does, and what happens when he gets a little edgy. This is simply a way of life for him. He sticks around and stabs, beats and dismembers until there is any chance of his being caught, then he moves on to a new area and repeats. Here, he is on skid row, eating from a soup kitchen and sleeping in a homeless refuge with dirty old men. Then his luck changes when he is given a job cleaning up shit and when his new colleagues, a couple named Kai and Cricket, let him take the spare room at their hovel, it seems like things are slowly getting better.
Except Henry hasn’t forgotten who he is. Kai and his boss, Rooter, have a criminal sideline in arson-for-profit, setting fires to various premises for dodgy insurance scams, and Henry soon becomes entangled in their high temperature nighttime antics. When Henry and Kai catch a couple of crack heads in a warehouse they are about to destroy, the Henry/Otis dynamic of the original film becomes apparent – Henry kills one and then gives the gun to Kai, who, having never killed before, makes his homicide debut. He’s a bad influence, that Henry.
Back at the house, there isn’t much comic relief. Cricket's emotionally fragile younger sister (Louisa) has come to stay, and, again recalling character dynamics of the first movie, she falls for the serial killer who stays in the spare room. Meanwhile, the dynamic duo are still setting fires and making good from it, and what's more, they're still on a killing spree, but Kai is getting scared. He wants out. This is when Henry lets him know who the boss really is, and that if he becomes weak, or fucks up, he’ll kill him. This, in case you hadn't guessed, is where everything begins to get very messy indeed. When Henry spurns Louisa's advances she blows her brains out, then he kills everyone else and blows up the house.
Maybe you're thinking, 'sounds a bit like the first movie.' You’re dead right. Hell, it even opens the same way, with a rushed montage of shots depicting Henry's dead victims. Parello has taken McNaughton's work and used it as a template, employing new characters (who are, lets face it, not so different from Otis, Becky et al) in a similarly depressing setting, throwing in an almost-interesting 'arson for profit' subplot and reaching a highly predictable conclusion. Largely bereft of imagination, flair, or emotional investment, Henry 2 is a pretty tough movie to sit through. Neil Giuntoli just doesn't cut it (excuse the pun) as Henry, even though he underplays the performance, so from the off it's difficult not to think, 'Ok, convince me'. And, of course, he doesn't, and because Rooker’s performance was so intensely memorable, it’s virtually impossible to deny yourself continuous comparisons to his weighty performance.
As with other unnecessary horror sequels that spring to mind, this is a bloodier affair, complete with gushing knife wounds and enough old school splatter to at least put a smile on the face of audiences who demand it. Heck, maybe audiences who make an effort to watch a Henry sequel may just be looking for this type of kick, rather than the brooding menace generally characteristic of first instalments. If you’ve seen Ed Gein or The Hillside Strangler then maybe you’ll know no to expect too much from Parello. Where these movies have an advantage over Henry 2 however is that they’re not sequels, and therefore can’t be judged in the same way, especially by horror snobs like us lot.
Ultimately, this is not a disaster; it’s tolerable but, considering how many better movies there are out there, that just ain’t good enough.
Dark Sky's release of Henry 2 comes with Chuck Parello's commentary, a 'Making of a Madman' featurrette, out-takes and deleted scenes, theatrical trailers and photo gallery. Available to buy the same day from Dark Sky Films is Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive (aka Death Trap), which is much more worthy of your time.
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