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Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

Unrated  |   |  Crime, Drama, Horror  |  7 September 1990 (USA)
7.1
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 21,370 users  
Reviews: 200 user | 126 critic

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

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The making of seminal 80s horror film Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986).

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Mary Demas ...
Dead Woman / Dead Prostitute / Hooker #1
...
Anne Bartoletti ...
Waitress
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 ...
Husband
Erzsebet Sziky ...
Hitchiker
Tracy Arnold ...
Tom Towles ...
David Katz ...
Henry's Boss
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Storyline

Loosely based on serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, the film follows Henry and his roommate Otis who Henry introduces to murdering randomly selected people. The killing spree depicted in the film starts after Otis' sister Becky comes to stay with them. The people they kill are strangers and in one particularly gruesome attack, kill all three members of a family during a home invasion. Henry lacks compassion in everything he does and isn't the kind to leave behind witnesses - of any kind. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

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


Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

7 September 1990 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Henri, portret serijskog ubice  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$111,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$609,939 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (edited for TV)

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Although completed in 1986, the film didn't get a theatrical release until 1989. It is often mistakenly claimed that this was due to its being tied up in censorship issues with the MPAA, and although this is true to a degree, the majority of the delay occurred because the executive producers, Malik B. Ali and Waleed B. Ali were somewhat underwhelmed by the film turned in by director John McNaughton, and weren't sure it was even worth their time releasing it on VHS, let alone releasing theatrically. As McNaughton himself says, "they just put it on the shelf". Several years later, Chuck Parello (who would go on to direct Henry II: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1996)) saw the film and was deeply impressed. Parello was working for the Ali brothers at the time, and he began to lobby them to do something with it. He convinced them to let it be screened at the Chicago Film Festival in 1989, where, after getting a glowing review from the Chicago Tribune's Rick Kogan, the film was accepted into the 1989 Telluride Festival and subsequently the 1990 Splatterfest Festival, becoming the sensation of both festivals. At this point, the Ali brothers realized they had something unique on their hands and set about promoting the film for theatrical release. See more »

Goofs

Some obvious matte lines are seen in the film from time to time. See more »

Quotes

Store clerk: How about those Bears?
Henry: Fuck the Bears.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Before the film begins the following can be read: "This film is a fictional dramatization of certain events. 'Henry' is not intended to be an accurate portrayal of a true story. The film is based partly on confessions of a person named Henry, many of which he later recanted. As to Otis and Betty, the film is fictional." See more »

Connections

Featured in Gorgon Video Magazine (1989) See more »

Soundtracks

Don't You Know
Written by Mic Fabus (as M. Fabus) / Steven A. Jones (as S.A. Jones)
Performed by Fawn
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

If only more people had the guts to make films like this....
8 October 2003 | by (Nowhere Interesting) – See all my reviews

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.


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