Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

Oh damn me and my need for tracking down stuff as disturbing as this!

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
Directed By: John McNaughton (Wild Things)

The Prologue
A horror movie fan can go through several phases when it comes to looking up certain types of horror films. First you go through the phase of googling stuff like “Sickest movie ever made” just to see what comes up. Then you go on the hunt (a none stop hunt) until you track down whatever film you pick from the list of those listed. You then get excited when you finally get your hands on it and you go to check it out..not sure just what you’ll see, but hey it HAS to be good right?? I mean everyone did list it, it’s been hyped, it HAS to be hardcore, yet awesome..Then they watch the movie..and depending on what the movie actually has in it…if it’s just bad enough..bad in a “just wrong” way not really bad in the quality way..a horror fan might find a bit of shame at least in wanting to see such a film to start with.

You name the emotion and I’ve felt it at one time or another when watching a film. Of note, I’ve felt embarrassment, I’ve felt shame, and while “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” is a over-all good film..it also will cause such feelings to spring up once your viewing it..Come to think of it I think I felt both of those emotions on this cult film that was made in 1986 but not released til 1989.

The Movie
In “Henry”, we follow the everyday doing of a disturbed man who is on a random crime spree of serial killings. See Henry is an ex con, he’s got a job, he has a place to stay with his former cellmate Otis, he even seems to have a girl with an eye for him in Otis’ little sister who is moved in with the guys due to fleeing an abusive relationship. Henry also has a serious problem..he can’t stop killing people..killing people in horrible ways, and each kill seems to get worse and worse as they go on. Hell, he even gets his friend Otis to join in later on..So with all that going on you just KNOW things can’t end well now can they?

You know I just got to give all the props in the world to Michael Rooker for his role of Henry in this film, which is based in large on the real life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. I already knew Rooker was a great actor but who knew he could take things to THAT level..a level of such extremes. While I’ve seen the film, I’ve never seen any behind the scene stuff on it so I’d really love to know how he felt doing some of the things he does in this gritty down in the dumps film..a description I use not to describe the film, cause it is good, but just the over all vibe and feel of the film.


Among the scenes of murder you see take place to such people as Hookers and what have you lies a very very hard to watch scene to which we’ll just call (as everyone else does) “The Family Massacre Scene”. I’ve just about seen it all in movies, but you know what folks? That one was almost too much for me to watch. And I’m not an uptight person, I’m not a uncool tool that waves a finger at things I find “wrong”, I’m just a guy like all of you (well some of you are woman) who loves movies and I enjoy when they get all hardcore and bloody but this one scene just made me feel horrible…ashamed even. But you want to know whats even more messed up? This stuff really happens out there…it ain’t pretty in the real world so I suppose it doesn’t need to be pretty or at all tamed in here either.

The film gives you a reason at least for why Henry does what he does, it doesn’t make it right but unlike most films it does take you inside the mind of a serial killer and we see what causes that switch between normal and horrible to get thrown causing such a monster to come out of a person…Again, it doesn’t make it right but it shows that everything has a starting point..even murderers.

The Conclusion
Now I’m sure the more I go into detail about how disturbing this film is, the more some of you will want to just run out there and see it. After all, the talk about it does indeed spark interest..that’s how I found out about it and why I went out and found it to watch.

But be warned..you may find yourself going through some of the same emotions many a horror film fan before you went through once you’ve seen it for yourself.

The Rating (7/10)