Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer Reviews

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June 18, 2014
He killed his mama?

Henry is an eccentric man that has developed a friendship with Otis and his niece, Becky. Otis isn't too bright and is looking for direction and falls in nicely with Henry, a serial killer. Becky is unaware of their behavior and is trying to save up money to eventually get her daughter back. Otis and Henry go on a killing spree until Henry and Becky begin to fall in love. Otis may not take too kindly to that and his relationship with Henry starts to go astray.

"What was your daddy like?"
"He used to drive a truck until his legs got cut off."

John McNaughton, director of Wild Things, Mad Dog and Glory, Speaking of Sex, The Harvest, and Expert Whiteness, delivers Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. The storyline for this is as good as any of the classics and in line with Texas Chainsaw Massacre with the great feel and authenticity on display throughout the film. The kill sequences are wonderful and the characters are believable and developed perfectly. The acting was better than I anticipated and includes Michael Rooker (easily his best film), Tom Towles, and Tracy Arnold.

"My mama was a whore. I don't fault her for that. It's not what she done but how she done it."

I had heard about this film for years and finally got around to watching it off Netflix. This is a masterpiece and definitely belongs in my classic horror DVD collection (beside Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Exorcist). The film has the perfect grit, pace, and run time and the conclusion is unbelievably well written (though all historically incorrect). I thoroughly enjoyed this film and will likely add this to my DVD collection.

"Where you going?"
"Nowhere. Want to come?"

Grade: A
½ April 20, 2014
Impressive in terms of budget but also an intriguing character study thanks to an inspired Michael Rooker performance in the title role.
½ April 5, 2014
Pretty sweet but the age of the film hurt it horribly. The prop in one scene is so bad they should have just cut it. It's really different from "Gein", "Dahmer", "Gacy" and "Ted Bundy". Not only because of the age, but because of the directing. It and the acting are good, the sound effects are garbage.
April 2, 2014
Harsh, exploitive and brutally violent, from the very beginning, "Henry" makes it clear that it's not playing games.
½ March 31, 2014
The chilling music definitely adds to the already disturbing plot as we see the mind of a serial killer at play. The dialogue at times was weak, but the brutally disturbing violence of each killing made up for it.
March 8, 2014
Couldve been a better movie. However, this peculiar insight in the mind of a serial killer does offer a bit more from the point of view of a horror/slasher/suspense movie than I expected. I did feel a little dissapointed at the end considering how the movie suffers a bit from pace and general consistancy, even when it has some really shocking moments.
March 5, 2014
Over the past few years, I have found myself to be considerably desensitized to what others deem shocking and disturbing. That is the most likely reason for this rating. Once you get past the violent urges of Henry, there's really nothing else in it for audiences in this film.
½ March 1, 2014
Ironically, what the film lacks most is the insight needed for an effective depiction. And while the atmosphere is appropriate, it lacks tension.
February 28, 2014
When John McNaughton showed Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer to the films executive producer, he was apparently shocked. He expected a teen slasher and was shocked when he got a real slasher.

That really explains the film. Instead of creating a fun, campy slasher type film where everything is sugar coated, Henry is real. Based on the apparent confessions of real killer Henry Lee Lucas, the film is shot in such a way it feels like we could be watching a documentary and everything we are seeing could be real. This is helped by the simplicity. For example when a TV salesman is killed, it is done in such a simple yet realistic way, the scene feels far more disturbing than most of the usual over the top horror we see today. McNaughton seemed to realise that over the top blood didn't necessarily equal scary (although a low budget did help).

The star of the show is obviously Michael Rooker, who plays Henry in such a real way. Apparently during the whole shoot, Rooker stayed in character, and with the end result, I'm not surprised. Rooker has created a killer far more scarier than anything else seen before because of how real he seems. He could be someone you know, a next door neighbor for example and that's far more scarier to me than any freddy kruger.
February 18, 2014
The real scare factor is the realism this film holds, it gives you more insight to the blank and pure homicidal urges of a psychopath.
February 17, 2014
An unpleasant film about unpleasant people yet it's still profoundly gripping despite its disturbing story and characters.
Partly based on the confessions of a real life serial killer, it begins with a creepy montage of dead bodies, victims of the psychopathic Henry (Michael Rooker), a drifter who lives with Otis, a drug-dealing rapist who he met in prison and Becky, Otis' sister, who has recently moved to Chicago to find a job.
Henry has no preferred method of pattern to the murders he commits, seemingly to do them completely at random and soon introduced Otis into the act of killing, the two of them videotaping every gory detail. However, when Otis starts getting on Henry's nerves the two turn on each other and Henry leaves town with Becky.

The movie was made in 1986 and did 4 years on the festival circuits before getting a worldwide release. It's a stunning debut from it's director John McNaughton, creating a thrilling horror movie where there is no good whatsoever to counterbalance the evil and presenting a world too sickeningly disturbing to truly exist and too viscerally realistic to be denied.
This makes the Saw movies seem like a Disney cartoon.
½ February 9, 2014
Overall, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is really terrifying. The film shows the most realistic account of what the life of a serial killer is like. A bum, a shiftless lay-about that becomes the ultimate anti-hero. Or does he? Do you root for Henry? This movie gives you an up front and in your face story that drags you in kicking and screaming.
February 5, 2014
It is a terrifying experience.
Some of the film has aged quite awful, but for the most part it hasn't aged a bit.
Makes you think how terrifying this was back in its time.
½ January 23, 2014
One of the most disturbing films ever made.
January 22, 2014
Gave this one a re-watch to break in the Blu-ray and to keep the creepy flavor of the Halloween season going, and I have to marvel at how well this one holds up to this day. Well constructed and unsettling, it's still worth a look or a re-visit.

Recommended.
Super Reviewer
½ January 21, 2014
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 9, 2014
NC-17? Damn this was crazy!
January 3, 2014
This movie is great! Not for the squeamish. Michael Rooker doesn't disappoint.
½ December 30, 2013
Gripping and thoroughly dark material, propelled forwards by a stellar performance from Rooker, this is essential and affecting viewing.
Super Reviewer
½ December 18, 2013
Some of it works and some of it doesn't. Yes it's disturbing and violent and definetly not for everyone sensitive to language, extreme and brutal violence, and sexual content. That being said, it is disturbing, upsetting and at times can be effective in it's message but also falters and falls into a routine and lackluster spectacle in places.
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