Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) - Rotten Tomatoes

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

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Critic Consensus: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is an effective, chilling profile of a killer that is sure to shock and disturb.

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Movie Info

Although the title makes Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer seem like a cut-rate slasher flick, the movie is actually one of the most disturbing and terrifying examinations of mass murderers ever filmed. Loosely based on the story of confessed murderer Henry Lee Lucas, the film follows Henry (Michael Rooker) as he selects innocent victims -- occasionally with his roommate Otis (Tom Towles) -- and kills them, capturing their deaths on videotape. Many of these murders rank among the most brutal ever portrayed on film. The violence and the clinical, detached portrayal of Henry and his horrifying actions make Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer a disturbing, thought-provoking film, but it certainly isn't one for every taste. Finished in 1986, the movie wasn't released until 1990, when it was greeted with both positive reviews and considerable controversy.
Rating:
NC17
Genre:
Drama , Horror , Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
 wide
On DVD:
Runtime:
Studio:
GreyCat Films

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Cast

Tom Towles
as Otis
Mary Demas
as Dead Woman/Hooker
David Katz
as Henry's Boss
Eric Young
as Parole Officer
Kristin Finger
as Hooker No. 2
Anne Bartoletti
as Waitress
Erzsebet Sziky
as Hitchiker
Rick Paul
as Shooting Victim
Lily Monkus
as Woman in Beauty Shop
Pamela Fox
as Hair Stylist
Flo Spink
as Woman In Cadillac
Kurt Naebig
as High School Jock
John Scafidi
as Kid with Football No. 1
Benjamin Passman
as Kid with Football No. 2
Lisa Temple
as Murdered Wife
Brian Graham
as Murdered Husband
Sean Ores
as Murdered Son
Anita Ores
as Mall Shopper No. 1
Megan Ores
as Mall Shopper No. 2
Cheri Jones
as Mall Shopper No. 3
Monica Anne O'Malley
as Mall Victim
Bruce Quist
as Husband
Peter Van Wagner
as Bum No. 1
Tom McKearn
as Bum No. 2
Frank Coranado
as Bum No. 3
Waleed B. Ali
as Store Clerk
Donna Dunlap
as Dog Walker
Denise Sullivan
as Floating Woman
Elizabeth Kaden
as Dead Wife
Ted Kaden
as Dead Husband
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News & Interviews for Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Critic Reviews for Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

All Critics (58) | Top Critics (14)

In a world in which eight nearly identical Friday the 13th movies offer the adventures of Jason the ax-murderer as entertainment for teen-agers, maybe we do need this sobering alternative.

Full Review… | September 16, 2014
Seattle Times
Top Critic

The film is an honest and disturbing attempt to come to grips with the sort of modern horror that we must -- more urgently every day -- try to understand.

Full Review… | August 12, 2013
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

The difference between John McNaughton's incredibly chilling film and the usual serving of screen carnage is the difference between the mind of a murderer and the cynical and manipulative depiction of mindless murder.

Full Review… | August 12, 2013
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic

Sure, it's compelling; the nature of the material guarantees that. But it doesn't seem to be telling us much more than that the world is a scary place and murder is ugly. We knew those things. This is tabloid chic.

Full Review… | August 12, 2013
New Yorker
Top Critic

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is as fine a film as it is a brutally disturbing one.

Full Review… | August 12, 2013
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

McNaughton's direction combines a strict social realism with a cool, Fritz Langian sense of pre-determination, while his work with actors has the improvisational freshness of a John Cassavetes.

Full Review… | August 12, 2013
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

½

Apart from the solid performances, there's little else to praise in this mediocre film that mistakenly believes that resorting to shocking, purposeless violence is enough to draw what it assumes to be the "portrait of a serial killer", instead of developing his motivations.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

½

The invention of the NC-17 rating was a big controversy in the eighties, and this film instigated the debate thanks to its scenes of brutality and murder at the hands of serial killer Henry (Rooker). Released four years after it was made amid controversy, "Henry" remains a pivotal film in horror and changed the filming of psychosis and showed a serial killer in his environment for the very first time. By today's standards this isn't as bad as the torture porn that has recently become a trend, and definitely not as gory as it seemed at the time, but it's still freaky. Henry is still a very sadistic and creepy serial killer, and Rooker gives a performance that still chills to this day. The revelation that he feels bad for his friend's sister (Arnold) and that he can express empathy was also a new concept, since serial killers are often villainized by popular media. Henry is the real father of today's lovable killer, "Dexter", and that show owes much to this early film.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

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Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer

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