Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

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Facts and Figures

Run time: 83 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 1st September 1990

Budget: $111 thousand

Distributed by: GreyCat Films

Production compaines: Maljack Productions


Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Fresh: 47 Rotten: 8

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew


Producer: , Steven A. Jones,

Starring: Michael Rooker as Henry, Tracy Arnold as Becky, Tom Towles as Otis, David Katz as Henry's Boss, Mary Demas as Dead Woman / Dead Prostitute / Hooker, Anne Bartoletti as Waitress, Elizabeth Kaden as Dead Couple - Wife, Ted Kaden as Dead Couple - Husband, Denise Sullivan as Floating Woman

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer Movie Review

In 1986, a Chicago-based film producer gave young music video director and former boat-builder John McNaughton some cash to make his first feature, a teen slasher film. McNaughton came back with Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, a movie so distant from the genre that he might as well have submitted a Care Bears short.

Which is not to say that there's anything cuddly about this brutal story, loosely inspired by the crimes of real-life convicted murderer Henry Lee Lucas. (They really always have three names, don't they?) As the title character, Michael Rooker murders people, sometimes by the family, with all the joy of a smack addict numbly shooting his semi-daily fix. Henry the serial killer is absolutely dead inside, and slaughter is just his thing.

Henry's life, such as it is, takes a shift when he moves in with Otis (Tom Towles), a casual friend in the Windy City, and tutors him as a serial killing apprentice. Unlike Henry, Otis demonstrates wild enthusiasm for his new craft, whoopin' his way through the mutilation and murder. Meanwhile, Henry obtains some fresh sympathy from Otis's sister Becky (Tracy Arnold), an open wound of a woman who finds herself attracted to the socially catatonic miscreant, although she doesn't fully understand the extent of his crimes. Foreboding ensues.

Shot for a pittance even by mid-'80s indie standards, Henry sat undistributed for three years as the MPAA refused to rate it or even to suggest how to cut it to an "R," mostly because of the film's amoral point of view. Indeed, McNaughton and Rooker don't bother to evoke either sympathy or antipathy towards Henry the serial killer. Henry just is, and the movie exactly lives up to its title.

In that, Henry: POSK is powerful, raw, terrifying, and shocking filmmaking. In fact, McNaughton created exactly the slasher film his producer wanted, but without the goofy pratfalls, gore thrills, or stoned teenagers getting it on in a lakeside cabin.

So what if it's amoral? Did you really need a director to tell you that serial murder is wrong, anyway?

The 20th Anniversary DVD includes commentary from McNaughton, deleted scenes, a new making-of documentary, and a short film about the real Lucas.


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Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer Rating

" Excellent "


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