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Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) - Plot Summary Poster

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Summaries

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • What would you do if you found out that the person living right along side you is really a serial killer, who engages in bizarre acts of sex with people and animals, living and dead, who killed his own mother? Well, meet Henry. He is a typical under-paid bug spray guy who lives amongst you. He is not Freddy or Jason, he's real. Henry was serving time in jail for killing his mother. He cannot seem to keep his story straight in his head, he can't really recall how he killed that one. She was cruel to him. She made him wear a dress to school, and she made him watch her have sex with dirty old men. He couldn't take it anymore, so one day, he just killed her. No remorse. He hooked up with a friend named Otis, and the two are living together. Otis' sister is moving in too, because she doesn't have any money. They are an interesting trio, each with their own set of morals. Otis' sister begins to fall for Henry, who has wonderful manners and seems to look out for her. Otis on the other hand, he just wants to see his sister naked. Henry and Otis go out for beers one night, and Henry introduces him to the act of murder. They kill a few prostitutes, and a "hot" items salesman. There is no limit to what they will do once they get a taste for it. Otis is becoming quickly addicted, and he can't pull himself out of the web Henry has weaved. That poor girl has no idea what is going on with them. She begins to date Henry. The two appear to fall in love. The cops don't have a clue. Henry is too smart for them. If you shoot one, and stab another, they will never make the connection between the two murders. It all becomes so random that it seems normal death to the police. Henry also has transportation on his side. He travels from town to town once the heat gets too heavy. He can pick up a few hitchhikers on the way and kill them. Bingo! A new guitar. This movie is very shocking, because you only see one or two of the fifteen murders happen, the rest you just see the before and after, with no middle. It makes you wonder what the hell was going on in between.

  • Henry, a drifter, commits a series of brutal murders, supposedly operating with impunity.


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • In the opening shot, a naked and bloody dead woman is seen lying in grass in a field.

    In a local diner, a man named Henry (Michael Rooker) finishes his meal, pays his tab, buys a pack of Kool brand cigarettes, and tells the waitress: "real nice smile you got there". Henry walks to his beat-up dark-green 1970 Chevy Impala and drives off.

    In a convenience/liquor store, a middle-aged man and woman are seen lying dead beside the counter, and the sounds of their murder are heard. In other shots, a woman is seen lying dead in the bathroom of a motel room. Another nude woman is seen lying dead in a creek.

    Henry drives around Chicago listening to his car radio and staring at the people on the street. He drives to a suburban neighborhood and sees several women walking to their cars in a shopping mall parking lot. He follows one woman to her house, but leaves when he sees a man greet her in the driveway. Henry drives on until he picks up a female guitar-carrying hitchhiker.

    Meanwhile, a man named Otis (Tom Towles) meets his younger sister Becky (Tracy Arnold) at a terminal at Midway Airport. She has just arrived from Texas to stay with him for a while. Otis tells Becky that she looks terrible (from the bruises on her face). In his car driving from the airport, Otis says he always knew that Becky's husband, Leroy, was no good for her. Becky tells Otis that she is not sure how long she will stay.

    Otis and Becky arrive at Otis' seedy second floor apartment located at 1801 North Road in Chicago. They are seated at the kitchen table talking when Henry walks in. Henry has the hitchhiker's guitar and gives it to Otis as a gift. Otis introduces Henry to his sister, and Otis tells Becky that Henry is currently heading west and has been staying with him for a few weeks.

    The next day, Henry is seen working as an exterminator, spraying a kitchen. Henry's boss arrives as he is leaving and tells Henry that this is all the work he has for a while, but tells him to hold onto the spray can. He gives Henry some money for his job and sends him on his way. Henry drives to the house of the same woman that he followed from the mall the previous day. He still his spray tank with him. He knocks on the woman's front door and introduces himself as an exterminator and asks if she needs her house fumigated. She lets him inside. Afterwords, the woman is seen laying dead on her living room couch, having been strangled with an electrical cord.

    Meanwhile, Otis is seen working as a fuel pump operator at a local gas station. A teenage boy visits Otis at the station and asks if Otis has any more of the stuff that he sold the boy last week. He gives Otis some money, and Otis agrees to meet with the teen later.

    That evening at Otis' apartment, Becky is in the kitchen cooking dinner and she asks Otis how he met Henry. Otis tells her that they met in prison a few years ago and that Henry was inside for killing his mother and one of her boyfriends with a baseball bat. After dinner, Henry helps Becky clear the table as well as wash and dry the dishes, while Otis leaves to go to his meeting with the teenager. While playing cards with Henry, Becky asks him about his father, and then tells him that her own father used to rape her. She asks Henry if he killed his mother and repeats what Otis told her. Henry tells Becky that he did kill his own mother but he didn't beat her to death with a baseball bat. He stabbed her. Henry explains that his mother was a prostitute who brought men over and make Henry watch while she had sex with them. When Henry would refuse, she would beat him. When Henry mentions about shooting his mother, Becky reminds him that he told her that he stabbed her. Henry corrects himself.

    The following evening, Becky again cooks dinner for Henry and Otis and mentions that she got a job as a shampoo girl at a local beauty parlor downtown to help out financially. Otis mentions that Becky's previous job was a stripper and that she used to dance naked at various strips clubs, and asks when she will dance for them. Otis tells Becky to get him a beer. When she comes back to the table with a can, he pulls her by her arm as if to give her a kiss. Henry suddenly grabs Otis' hair and yells "Don't do that, Otis! She's your sister!" Henry makes Otis apologize and promise not to do it again. Otis seems upset, so Becky suggests the two men go out for a beer.

    While driving along a seedy part of Milwaukee Avenue, Henry and Otis pick up a couple of women. The car pulls into an alley where they begin to make out with the two women. In the back seat, Henry suddenly kills her. The other woman, in the front seat with Otis, screams and tries to get out of the car, but Otis grabs her while Henry reaches up and snaps the woman's neck. He pulls the bodies out and leaves them in the alley. Otis is unsettled, but Henry pacifies him by getting him something to eat. At Otis' apartment later, Henry talks about killing people, and Otis seems to agree with Henry's philosophy that "it is either you or them".

    Another evening later, Otis in his living room and getting bad TV reception and kicks in the screen. He decides that they need a new television. Otis and Henry drive to a garage where they meet a portly man surrounded by television sets and other appliances. The three men discuss different TV's and a $500 video camera before Otis settles on a $50 black-and-white TV. The fat man is angry that they wasted his time to settle for a cheap TV and is rude towards Henry, who responds by stabbing him in his hand and then in the stomach. Then the two of them bash the $50 TV over his head and plug it it, killing the fat man. A little later, Otis, Henry and Becky are playing with the stolen video camera at Otis' apartment and watch TV with a new and stolen TV set.

    Another few days later, Otis goes to see his parole officer to discuss his job status. Later, Otis goes to a high school parking lot where he meets with the same teenage boy for a drug transaction. Otis touches the boy's leg, and receives a punch to his face by the homophobic youth who runs out of the car.

    That evening, a furious Otis tells Henry that he wants to go out and kill someone. Henry and Otis drive around Chicago and feign car trouble at Lower Wacker Drive where Otis shoots and kills a man who stops to offer help.

    The next day, while out filming with the video camera, Henry advises Otis about his MO for killing and tells him to kill in different ways so that the police will not find a pattern. Henry also says that it is important to keep moving and never stay in one place for too long. That evening, the two men head over to a house where they stage a home invasion. Henry films Otis tormenting a woman, while her husband is lying on the floor bound and gagged. The couple's teenage son returns and Henry drops the camera, runs to the boy and breaks his neck. Otis breaks the woman's neck and Henry stabs the man. Otis fondles and kisses the dead woman, and Henry orders him to stop. Later, Henry and Otis are back in the apartment watching the video. Otis rewinds the tape saying, "I want to see it again."

    Another day or two later, Becky is working at her job at the beauty parlor and during a break, she talks on the phone with her mother long distance and asks how she is doing.

    Meanwhile, Henry and Otis are driving around in Henry's car. As Otis leans out with the video camera, the camera is hit and broken. Otis throws it out the window and the two men argue. Henry warns Otis that he is getting careless and out of control with his antics. The growing warped Otis says that he wants to stop for a beer, and Henry forces him to get out of the car.

    Henry arrives back at the apartment where Becky tells him that she just quit her job so she can go back to Texas to live with her daughter and mother, and she asks Henry to go with her. Henry suggests going out to get a steak dinner at a local restaurant so they can talk about it some more. Plus, Henry wants to try out his new credit card (obviously stolen from one of his recent victims).

    The couple returns a few hours later to find Otis passed out drunk on the living room couch. Becky takes Henry to her bedroom where she takes off her shirt and begins to unbutton his, clearly wanting to have sex with him. Henry seems reluctant. Otis suddenly appears in the doorway and says "I ain't interuptin' nothin', am I?" Henry leaves the apartment and goes for a walk. He goes to a convenience store to buy some more Kool cigarettes. He is angry, but backs out on wanting to kill the store clerk. Outside in an alley, he meets a middle-aged woman walking a dog. He follows the woman for a while, but again backs out from killing her and heads back to the apartment.

    Upon arriving back at the apartment, Henry finds Otis on top of a partially unclothed Becky, clearly raping her while choking her with his shirt. Henry kicks him off and beats him until Otis breaks a liquor bottle over his head. Just when Otis is about to stab Henry with the broken bottle's jagged edge, Becky leaps up and stabs Otis in his eye with the sharp edge of a steel comb. Henry crawls to the wounded and screaming Otis and stabs him in the stomach with his hunting knife, killing him at last. Becky yells at Henry to get the police, but Henry tells her to shut up and let him think. After a minute, he tells Becky help him clean up the mess and pack up so they can leave since their names are not on the lease of the apartment. While Becky cleans up the blood, Henry chops up Otis in the bathtub and puts his remains in several black plastic trash bags and then puts the bags in a suitcase. Henry and Becky leave the apartment carrying several suitcases as well as the guitar case. They drive to a bridge and throw the suitcase containing Otis' cut up body into the Chicago river.

    While driving out of the city, Henry says that they are going to hide out at his sister's ranch out west and they will send for Becky's daughter. Becky tells Henry that she loves him. Henry replies unemotionally, "I guess I love you too." The two of them drive to a rural motel and check in for the night. Becky plays with the guitar while Henry looks at himself in the bathroom mirror. He tells Becky that they need to get some sleep for they have a long drive tomorrow.

    The next morning, Henry showers, shaves, packs up and leaves the motel by himself. He stops his car a short distance from the motel along a rural road, pops open the car trunk and takes out Becky's blood stained suitcase. He drives away, leaving the suitcase (obviously containing Becky's dismembered body in it) behind.

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