Henry II: Portrait Of A Serial Killer picks up where the original left off. Henry (Neil Giuntoli, "The Shawshank Redemption") takes a thankless job at a port-o-john company where he meets husband and wife, Kai (Rich Komenich, "The Amityville Horror") and Cricket (Kate Walsh, "Grey's Anatomy"). They take pity on the homeless drifter and offer him a room in the home they share with their emotionally fragile niece, Louisa (Carri Levinson).
Henry learns that Kai has a side job as an arsonist-for-hire, setting up phony insurance scams to make money for their boss, Rooter (Daniel Allar). He agrees to join Kai and on one of their first outings, they discover two squatters in a building that's been marked for fire. It is then that Henry introduces Kai to his life's work...and the murders begin. Kai has never killed before, but he turns into a willing accomplice.
Initially, the two men work well together. But, as the killing spree increases in their depravity, it's more than Kai can handle. He wants out, but he's in too deep.
Before starting to even contemplate Henry 2, I have to say this: anything that would come as a sequel to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer will be overshadowed by the fact that it’s a sequel to a harrowing and classic (fictionalized) account on Henry Lee Lucas. And as this one is done without the benefit of Otis, it’s going to be even harder to top.
That said, it can stand in its own light, especially if the decision to make this simply about Henry Lee Lucas and wasn’t a direct-to-video sequel.
The two things that damage this movie the most are the production (it does look very 90’s, straight to video – a bad thing in this case, as the first was much more raw and visceral look into Henry’s mind; a character study of a sociopath), and the fact that it’s a fucking sequel to "Portrait of a Serial Killer". That said, this movie does have some good points. So let’s put "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" away for now and ask: how does the sequel really stand up?
I’ve seen lots of negative reviews of this film: I’ve heard lots of people slag it. However, I’m partial to it: the sociopath-like tendencies showed in the original are still very much present, as is the character-study from Part 1. A lot of what it is slammed for, it seems, is the fact that it's “the direct to video sequel to "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer”. And in light of the current slew of remakes, prequels and PG-13 whores, I’m quite glad this exists and think it definitely deserves an extra view.
Henry is still very much of the murderer he was in the first part… mind you, the killings aren’t as graphic, but they do exist (not on the level of the original, either, but they are a part of the purpose of this film). Serial killers do not tend to change their ways, and Henry really hasn’t been all that different from original to sequel: people are still being killed, and are generally chosen at random, but they don’t tend to happen as often.
More of an interesting point is Henry’s choosing of a next partner in the case of Kai. Kai is a very disturbed, fucked up individual, with no clear cut good / evil side to him, as it should be in any true study of anyone who has killed. Where Henry’s purpose for killing seems an internal please, drawing from the power to take life from others at random, Kai tends to be selfish in his motives: greed is a primary motivator, as is revenge. Kai is a firebug, but definitely not the best of killers: he does seem to have a conscience: regardless of how distorted and selfish it might be, it exists.
Louisa adds a strange, third element to the mix: she is a depressed, suicidal bookworm sort – one who would work out with Henry somewhat well, if the “no survivors” clause didn’t have him kill Becky at the end of the first. Which is where Henry has an issue… he misses (in a warped way) Becky, and therefore can’t attach to Louisa as he may have been able to before Becky’s death. Henry is an unwilling participant in this little affair, and pushes her away at every available opportunity, driving her further and further into her mind, which comes to an unfortunate end (who’d have guessed?).
A lot of things like this keep "Henry 2" interesting as a slow burner, getting closer to what makes Henry tick: however, it is still overshadowed by the original, and the Louisa angle might have thrown people who liked the original. Personally, I thought it added a depth and dynamic to this that helped it, in the long haul.
As far as the gore, the red stuff is present, but if that’s all you came for, you will be sorely disappointed: watching the original might be better in this respect. With that in mind, we do get plenty, in the form of gunshot wounds, broken necks, screwdrivers to the neck, suffocation and a nice beheading, among other things (so there might still be some meat left for viewers). But if you came here for the gore, there are other movies that have much more and do much better. That said, this still has its moments. Also, movies based on real serial killers aren’t going to give you a lot of the red stuff… they tend to be more like cases into delving into sick and disconnected minds.
In the end, the questions remain: Is this as good as the original? Not in your life. The character development was good, in my opinion, but trails away from the first. If you’re looking for the cold, calculating Henry that kills without a lot of thought to consequences, he still exists here. But the events of the original have led him to other places (a possible psychological evolution, if you will). And on the count of gore, you get the bodies… but the original is still much better in that aspect too.
Had this not been called “Henry 2”, it might not have received half the flack that it did… but, unfortunately, it was, and thus it sits inferiorly next to the original. But it is still worth having if you have some time to kill and have an interest inside the mind of a serial killer. The pyromaniac touches throughout the film were a nice touch – it’s been suggested that pyromania without intent to kill is actually a fitting part of a serial killer’s profile.