Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

September 1, 1990 0 By Fans
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)


Based on the true life serial killer, Henry Lee Lucas.

Release Year: 1986

Rating: 7.1/10 (12,529 voted)

John McNaughton

Stars: Michael Rooker, Tracy Arnold, Tom Towles

Henry likes to kill people, in different ways each time. Henry shares an apartment with Otis. When Otis' sister comes to stay, we see both sides of Henry; the "guy-next-door" and the serial killer. Low budget movie, with some graphic murder scenes.

Writers: Richard Fire, John McNaughton


Mary Demas

Dead Woman
Dead Prostitute
Hooker #1

Michael Rooker


Anne Bartoletti


Elizabeth Kaden

Dead Couple – Wife

Ted Kaden

Dead Couple – Husband

Denise Sullivan

Floating Woman

Anita Ores

Mall Shopper #1

Megan Ores

Mall Shopper #2

Cheri Jones

Mall Shopper #3

Monica Anne O'Malley

Mall Victim

Bruce Quist


Erzsebet Sziky


Tracy Arnold


Tom Towles


David Katz

Henry's Boss

before "The Silence of the Lambs" comes the most highly acclaimed and controversial film of the year."

Release Date: September 1990

Filming Locations: Austin, Texas, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $111,000


Gross: $609,939

Technical Specs


(edited for TV)

Did You Know?


The music for the film was mixed in a recording studio in Chicago run by rock n' roll Christians. According to director John McNaughton, they were quite shocked when they saw the film.


Revealing mistakes:
When Becky stabs Otis in the eye, its clearly a clay model and not a real head.


I love you, Henry.

I guess I love you too.

User Review

If only more people had the guts to make films like this….


I really wish that there were more movies like "Henry" out there. Most
people still don't realize just HOW controversial this film was when it
was made. The MPAA wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole. McNaughton
fought for 4 years to get an R rating, but no dice. And since he didn't
want the X, and there was no NC-17 rating at the time, it was finally
released, with no rating, in 1990. And why? I've seen films with MORE
violence in them…Romero's "Day of the Dead" leaps to mind. But it's
not the violence in this film that makes it so disturbing. It's the way
the material is handled. And this is what the film's detractors
obviously can't appreciate.

"Henry" doesn't bother with any type of morality…it neither glorifies
nor denounces Henry's actions. It simply observes. It places those
actions before us and says "there it is…you deal with it…you sort
it out." People who don't like this film often say that there's "no
character development…no discernible plot line…etc., etc." Those
people should stop throwing around film school terms. This is one movie
that doesn't present events in a "movie reality"…it shows us things
as they are in the real world. Character development means showing you
enough of the characters in 90-120 minutes to make you feel as if
you've known them forever. How often do you spend 90 minutes with a
real person and know that much about them…or feel that you can
seriously identify with them? It's just a conceit of film-making. Same
with plot lines. Does life have a plot line? Not at all. Life is an
endless succession of things happening. Some seem important and/or
entertaining…some don't. "Henry," in its attempt to realistically
portray the life of a serial killer, does not need a plot line…in
fact, it benefits from having only a very loose plot line. Much like a
homicidal version of "The Catcher in the Rye," this film seems much
like a lot of things that happened, as opposed to a carefully
constructed fictitious story…which make it seems all the more
real…and all the more disturbing.

"Henry" is disturbing on many levels. Firstly, it feels very real. Too
real, perhaps. Nothing is slicked up…nothing seems counterfeit or
contrived. The entire thing is so utterly plausible that it chills you
to the bone. Secondly, the complete lack of police involvement is
equally disturbing. The only time you see a police car in this film,
it's driving past in the background as Henry is cruising the streets.
It drives past…and that's it. And Henry isn't scared…nor is he even
aware, apparently. He has nothing to hide. He knows the police won't
connect his crimes to one another…and they certainly won't connect
them to him. So what has he to fear?

And finally, the setting of Chicago makes the film more disturbing for
me, as I'm somewhat familiar with that city and can spot some locales
in the film that I recognize. In fact, a friend of mine who lives in
Chicago told me that the first time he watched "Henry," he and a friend
rented it and sat down in his friend's apartment to watch it. It was
about halfway through that they realized that the apartment they were
sitting in was the same one used as Henry's apartment in the film. All
I can say is…I'd never use that bath tub again.

All in all, I truly wish that more directors had the guts to make films
like "Henry." Honestly, I can't think of one film that's comparable.
There simply aren't any films out there that are anything like this.
This is truly one of the most disturbing films I've ever seen. After
seeing "Happiness," I guess that "Henry" probably got knocked down to
Number Two on that list. But "Second Most Disturbing Film Of All-Time"
is still a damn fine achievement, in my opinion.

If you want to see an accurate and appallingly realistic portrayal of
what the life of a serial killer must be like, definitely give "Henry"
a viewing. Make up your own mind from there.

Oh, and a final note…one reviewer stated concretely that his biggest
problem with the film was that "serial killers work alone." This is, of
course, not always the case. The real life counterparts to Henry and
Otis (Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole) DID kill together, as did
Bianchi and Buono, the infamous Hillside Stranglers. Those are not the
only such instances…but they're certainly the best-known. Therefore,
the overly broad generalization that serial killers "work alone" is no
real attack on the realism of this film.