Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

USA, 1985
77m (Australia), 78m (Norway; Sweden), 79m 15s (UK – video (PAL-2003)), 82m 31s (UK – theatrical), 83m
35mm film, colour, Dolby

An American horror film directed by John McNaughton.

Plot Summary

Henry stalks the USA murdering people in different ways. He shares an apartment with the brutish Otis and Becky, Otis’ sister. Henry proves to be something of an enigma – to Becky, he’s a caring, thoughtful friend – to his hapless victims he remains a brutal killer, eventually aided in his rampage by Otis.


* = uncredited

Directed by: John McNaughton
© Fourth World Productions Inc.
Maljack Productions Inc. presents a John McNaughton film
Executive Producers: Waleed B. Ali, Malik B. Ali
Produced by: John McNaughton, Lisa Dedmond, Steven A. Jones
Written by: Richard Fire & John McNaughton
Director of Photography: Charlie Lieberman
Film Editor: Elena Maganini
Music Composed by: Robert McNaughton with Ken Hale, Steven A. Jones
Sound Recording: Thomas T. Yore
Costumes [opening titles] Wardrobe [end titles]: Patricia Hart
Make Up Artist: Berndt Rantscheff
Hair Stylist: Chuck Gatz (courtesy Judith Gold)
Special Effects Make Up: Jeffrey Lyle Segal
Technical Effects: Lee Ditkowski
Art Direction: Rick Paul
Locations: Austin, Texas, USA *; Chicago, Illinois, USA *

Michael Rooker (Henry)
Tracy Arnold (Becky)
Tom Towles (Otis)
Mary Demas (dead woman)
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 [sic])
David Katz (Henry’s boss)
John Scafidi (kid with football #1)
Benjamen Passman (kid with football #2)
Flo Spink (woman In Cadillac)
Kurt Naebig (high school jock)
Mary Demas (hooker #1)

Alternative Titles

Henry – en massmördare – Sweden
Henry – en seriemördare – Sweden
Henry – pioggia di sangue – Italy
Henry Lee Lucas – sarjamurhaaja – Finland
Henry, portrait d’un serial killer – France
Henry, retrat d’un assassí – Spain (Catalan)
Henry, retrato de un asesino
– Spain
Henry: A Sombra de um Assassino
– Portugal
Henry: portret seryjnego zabójcy
– Poland
Retrato de um Assassino
– Brazil

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer Part 2 (1998)

Extracts included in
Fear in the Dark (1991)
Hollywood Halloween (1997)
Murder by Numbers (2001)
S&man (2006)

Production Notes

The film has suffered various fates at the hands of successive regimes at the British Board of Film Censorship. In 1991, it was passed with an 18 certificate but 1m and 2s of cuts, mainly from the scene where Henry and Otis watch the video they shot of them murdering the family. When it was submitted for video release two years later, further cuts were made, this time totalling 1m 53s. A video re-issue in 2001 saw the Board take 40s from an already truncated version before, in 2003, the film was finally passed uncut for both theatrical and video release.



  • American Film vol.16 no.5 (May) 1991 p.42-45, 49 – illustrated article (Director without a past by John McDonough)
  • Cinéaste vol.17 no.4 (1990 p.56-57 – article (Lost and found: Henry – portrait of a serial killer)
  • Cinefantastique vol.20 no.4 (March 1990) p.26-27, 29-30; 31, 60 – illustrated article (Henry Portrait of a serial killer by Dann Gire); illustrated review (Henry Portrait of a serial killer: arty slasher by Thomas Doherty)
  • Cinefantastique vol.37 no.8 (November/December 2005) p.61 – illustrated DVD review (DVD in review by Jeff Bond)
  • City Limits no.439 (1 Mar 1990) p.33 – review
  • Empire no.168 (June 2003) p.48 – credits, review (The reviews by Kim Newman)
  • Empire no.169 (July 2003) p.144 – illustrated DVD review (Rwd by [JB])
  • Empire no.26 (August 1991) p.26; 38-39 – illustrated review (New films by Robyn Karney); illustrated interview with John McNaughton (Sympathy for the devil by Barry McIlheney)
  • Entertainment Weekly no.495 (23 July 1999) pp.25-30 – illustrated article (25 Scariest Movies of All Time)
  • epd Film vol.10 no.3 (1 March 1993) p.42 – review (by Frank Arnold)
  • Fangoria no.234 (July 2004) p.48 – illustrated article (Fango’s top 25: 1989 by Joe Kane)
  • Fangoria no.247 (October 2005) p.84 – illustrated DVD review (DVD Dungeon: DVD of the month by Michael Gingold)
  • Film Comment vol.26 no.3 (May/June) 1990 p.61-62 – illustrated article (Heartland)
  • Film Review Special no.42 Psycho pp.27-57; 86 – illustrated article (The top 30 psychos); DVD review (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer by David Miller)
  • Filmmaker vol.1 no.4 (Summer 1993) p.39 – article (No-budget distribution, dollars and sense by Marcus Hu)
  • Metro no.124/125 (2000) p.100-105 – illustrated article (Getting away with murder by Paul Coughlin)
  • Micro-Film no.5 (Summer 2002) pp.11-13 – article (The importance of fearing Henry by Marty McKee)
  • Première February 1991 p.19 – review (by Patrick Fabre)
  • Post Script vol.22 no.2 (Winter/Spring 2003) pp.64-80 – illustrated article (On the road again: Rehearsing the death drive in modern realist horror cinema by Reynold Humphries)
  • Premiere vol.4 no.9 (May 1991) p.30-33 – illustrated article (Portrait of a serial comic by Malcolm Macpherson)
  • Public Culture vol.6 no.3 (Spring 1994) pp.525-545 – article (Terror incognito: Representation, repetition, experience in Henry… Portrait of a Serial Killer by Jeffrey S. Pence)
  • Sight and Sound vol.1 no.3 (July 1991) p.43-44 – credits, synopsis, review
  • Sight and Sound vol.3 no.3 (March 1993) p.58 – note
  • Sight and Sound vol.4 no.1 (January 1994) p.62 – note
  • Starburst no.138 (February 1990) p.25 – review
  • Starburst no.335 (April 2006) pp.62, 64 – illustrated article (Top 10 serial killer flicks)
  • Studio March 1991 p.13 – review (by Michel Rebichon)
  • Time Out no.1019 (28 Feb 1990) p.36 – illustrated review
  • Variety 4 October 1989 p.30 – review


  • Svenska Dagbladet 24 July 1992 – review (Sjuk film om sjukt samhälle by Hans Schiller)


  • The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror by Phil Hardy (ed.) p.419 – illustrated credits, review
  • The Films of the Eighties by Robert A. Nowlan and Gwendolyn Wright Nowlan p.252
  • The Highway Horror Film by Bernice M. Murphy pp.11-12, 32, 61-71, 73
  • Horror and Science Fiction Films IV by Donald C. Willis p.229
  • Horror Films by Subgenre: A Viewer’s Guide by Chris Vander Kaay and Kathleen Fernandez-Vander Kaay pp.151-152
  • Horror Films of the 1980s by John Kenneth Muir pp.738-740 – credits, synopsis, review
  • Serial Killer Cinema: An Analytical Filmography by Robert Cetti p.203-206
  • Terror Tracks: Music, Sound and Horror Cinema by Philip Hayward (ed) pp.188