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Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

tomatometer

88

Average Rating: 7.4/10
Reviews Counted: 50
Fresh: 44 | Rotten: 6

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

85

Average Rating: 7/10
Critic Reviews: 13
Fresh: 11 | Rotten: 2

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

audience

72

liked it
Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 10,812

My Rating

Movie Info

Though the title makes Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer seem like a cut-rate slasher flick, the film 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 murder on videotape. Many of these murders rank among the most brutal and

NC-17,

Drama, Horror, Mystery & Suspense

Richard Fire, John McNaughton

Nov 17, 1998

GreyCat Films

Watch It Now

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All Critics (50) | Top Critics (13) | Fresh (44) | Rotten (6) | DVD (13)

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.

August 12, 2013 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic IconTop 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.

August 12, 2013 Full Review Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic IconTop 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.

August 12, 2013 Full Review Source: New Yorker
New Yorker
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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

August 12, 2013 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop 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.

August 12, 2013 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Certainly not for everyone, but if slasher movies are your cup of tea this is a lot better than most, and the use of Chicago locations is especially effective.

October 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader | Comment (1)
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A drama of vivid intensity, it has all the marks of a well-made, thoughtful film that does not exploit violence for its own sake or make killing a source of entertainment.

August 12, 2013 Full Review Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

This movie is not really about a killer, but about killing -- the way killing is depicted in the movies and the way movie audiences have been conditioned to react to such violence.

August 12, 2013 Full Review Source: Philadelphia Daily News
Philadelphia Daily News

The film is diabolically driven by Michael Rooker, who embodies the fractured, disconnected personality of Henry.

October 8, 2012 Full Review Source: IGN Movies
IGN Movies

The flipside of the '80s teen slasher genre, John McNaughton's movie manages to go beyond the disquieting, distressing or even disturbing. It's downright dismaying.

October 8, 2012 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

From a technical standpoint, Henry is amateurish. But ultimately it's not the gilded frame that made it a modern horror classic, but its unblinking portrait of a remorseless killer who stares back at the audience and forces them to turn away.

September 5, 2011 Full Review Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Sarasota Herald-Tribune

McNaughton, co-writer Richard Fire and Rooker have pulled off an amazing feat -- a portrait of a damaged mind that refuses to explain, judge or glamorize psychopathic violence.

October 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

This is sicko territory with a vengeance but certainly has an impact.

October 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Genuinely frightening.

December 5, 2007
ColeSmithey.com

McNughton's film has both suspense and graphic violence, combining a clinical approach with semi-documentary technique that result in genuinely disturbing horror, deepling upsetting look at a murderer; a highlight of indie cinema of the 1990s.

December 5, 2006 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

A genuinely upsetting film that's guaranteed to make you more paranoid.

October 21, 2005
Fantastica Daily

Longe de traçar o "retrato de um assassino", o filme apela para o choque barato, mas evita o fracasso absoluto em função da força das performances de Rooker, Towles e Arnold.

October 15, 2005
Cinema em Cena

As an emotional map, Henry is decidedly raw, personal, and unrelenting.

September 7, 2005 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

Audience Reviews for Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

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.
January 21, 2014
FrizzDrop

Super Reviewer

[img]http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/user/icons/icon14.gif[/img]
October 30, 2013
Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer

Loosely based on the life of Henry Lee Lucas, this is a raw, gritty and overall savage character study of a serial killer. This is a film that is brilliantly directed by John McNaughton, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a disturbing picture that will definitely make you feel uneasy from start to finish. The movie is unflinching in its realism, and is not for the faint of heart. In terms of horror, this is one of the finest movies in the psychological horror genre. The cast deliver some impressive performances, especially Michael Rooker in a captivating and truly demented performance as the film's antagonist, Henry. Horror fans looking for a truly unique and uneasy genre picture will surely enjoy this movie, and for anyone looking for a well crafted and realistic horror yarn, this is one to watch. The movie is powerful in the sense that it can make you feel horrified, uncomfortable, and disturbed all at once, and is a rare horror film, especial this decade due to the fact that cinemas were overfilling with countless Slasher films, which are quite entertaining, but never achieved a sense of what a film like this could have pulled off. This is a horror film with a plot, and it successfully creates terror by its atmosphere and visuals as well as the performance of its lead actor. Like I said, Slashers are a mindless horror fun for the most part, that focuses on ridiculous kill sequences to create the carnage. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer on the other hand delivers some of the most truly disturbing images in horror history and you simply can't tear yourself away from such a movie. The film is a back to basics horror picture that doesn't use anything ridiculous to create the terror, the notion that is based on a real life serial killer is horrifying enough.
June 27, 2013
TheDudeLebowski65
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

three stars
September 7, 2012
YodaMasterJedi
MisterYoda ?

Super Reviewer

    1. Becky Otis's Sister: Oh, wh-what was he in for?
    2. Otis: You don't want to know.
    3. Becky Otis's Sister: What did he do-- kill his mama?
    4. Otis: Uh, huh.
    5. Becky Otis's Sister: Come on, what was he in for?
    6. Otis: You don't want to know.
    7. Becky Otis's Sister: What did he do, rob a bank or something?
    8. Otis: You were right the first time.
    9. Becky Otis's Sister: Huh?
    10. Otis: You were right the first time. He killed his mama. Don't you ever tell him I told you.
    – Submitted by Creep F (3 years ago)
    1. Becky Otis's Sister: I love you, Henry.
    2. Henry: I guess I love you too.
    – Submitted by Creep F (3 years ago)
    1. Henry: Otis, plug it in!
    – Submitted by Creep F (3 years ago)
    1. Otis: (his video camera breaks, while filming outside the car window) - Look what you did! Oh, god! Oh, Jesus! Look at it, it's ruined! Damn, Henry you ought to look where you're driving!
    2. Henry: Who the hell told you, to stick your head out the window anyway?
    3. Otis: You could of killed me!
    4. Henry: Sure. Blame it on me!
    5. Otis: Oh, this fu*king camera! [Otis throws the video camera out the car window]
    6. Henry: What did you do that for?
    7. Otis: It wasn't any good anymore.
    8. Henry: Could have fixed it.
    9. Otis: Sh*t, the lens was busted right off!
    10. Henry: Could have fixed it!
    11. Otis: How do you know? You a camera repair man? ...You should have said something.
    12. Henry: You threw the fu*ker right out the window!
    – Submitted by Creep F (3 years ago)
    1. Becky Otis's Sister: I don't want to talk about Leroy!
    2. Otis: Okay, we don't have to talk about him! You hungry?
    3. Becky Otis's Sister: Yeah.
    4. Otis: Good, I'm hungry too. I wonder if Leroy's hungry. (laughs)
    – Submitted by Creep F (3 years ago)
    1. Henry: Guns are easy to get. I can make a phone call and get a gun. Anybody can get a gun, Otis.
    – Submitted by Creep F (3 years ago)
View all quotes (18)

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Foreign Titles

  • Henry, Portrait d'un serial-killer (FR)
  • Henry: Retrato de un asesino serial (ES)
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