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

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer Reviews

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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.

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.
December 16, 2013
Very intense look at an overhashed subject. The psychological violence is even more brutal than the physical violence depicted in the film. This is the kind of movie that makes you want to take a bath after watching it. And then another one.
December 13, 2013
Very disturbing indeed x not my cup of tea as horror goes but a good film x Gritty and
gorey x makes you want to check that the back door is locked x Part of the fun of watching horror films for me is to also laugh at them and at myself for being scared x but I wasn't laughing at all during this film x very disturbing x
December 12, 2013
Five stars for being the most disturbing and frightening thing I've ever seen. I don't recommend it though, very well done, but just way too dark, and real. I haven't been able to finish it after 4 tries. Each time it makes me feel like I need to take a shower and suck on a gas pipe.
November 30, 2013
I definitely didn't find it more disturbing than other movies I've seen but I get that at it's time the general slasher flick was pretty far fetched with graphics you couldn't take seriously. (And your formulaic "rules" where Scream's satire pulled from). This is just your basic I'm going to kill you for no reason and not even you're usual build up of a chase scene. Twisted characters who have no moral compass in regards to life and no real sense of values toward anything except their own self preservation. Those things are more common in movies now than when this was made almost 30 years ago and if you saw it back then and it freaked you out then it's one of those things that it probably always will. To me...its was alright. The performance from Rooker is solid but the rest of the cast weren't anything to write home about. I'm glad I watched it if only to be able to know what the hype was about although it doesn't hold enough interest for me to want to watch it again.
November 23, 2013
a tremendous cast sets up for one of the most morbid and eerie films i've seen.
½ November 17, 2013
The strongest thing this film has going for it is realism; tough, gritty realism, and that does a great deal to elevate the film's effect on viewers.
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