Latest Articles

  • 982f576a7cc7471368089cbd1b4feee3 450 750

    NYCC 2018: Reflector Entertainment Launches Transmedia Experience, Unknown 9

    Get ready to dig deep into this new occult thriller. Read More
  • D78c0a8d4673ba0464645e6df43c8c95 450 750


    George Romero and Stephen King deliver five jolting tales of terror and a lot of fun. Read More
  • 080d661f59c82128b2f9ccf2fa06c0b1 450 750

    Night Terrors: Bloody Mary

    Ryan invites Bloody Mary into his home in the augmented-reality sequel, Night Terrors: Bloody Mary. Read More
  • 913c83526562c1c9c2adfb479a647417 450 750


    Can Luca Guadagnino's reimagining hold a candle to Dario Argento's original? Read More
  • Dfef1a9cd6cd34d457ac621ba95c1466 450 750

    NYCC 2018: Walkers Get Augmented With The Walking Dead: Our World

    James gets the lowdown on the Augmented Reality game from AMC. Read More
  • D0f83f8a42e48e361222a01335869094 450 750

    Five Silent Horror Films You Must Watch

    The Beyond the Chamber Door series author, PD Alleva, suggests an interesting mix of silent films and tunes to accompany them. Read More
  • 69d944dcb742539cad7cc6ea40398eb1 450 750

    The 31 Best Horror Soundtracks for October

    Grab your headphones because Richie is dropping a horror soundtrack you should listen to for each day in October. Read More
  • 3ea6eeebb8006db6271a7a80edb450e9 450 750

    Look Away

    Is growing up privileged all it’s cracked up to be? Look in the mirror and ask yourself… Read More
  • 44ee282e3a2c5bd43127f7afcfdb4d30 450 750

    Star Wars Adventures: Tales From Vader's Castle #3

    Horror comes to a galaxy far, far away. Read More
  • 482ccb17f18b9c7a08019b92d0d46c8f 450 750

    The Church

    I hate to see a good premise wasted, but I suppose church is a good place for that. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10

Latest News

  • Madame Tussauds Hollywood's Illusions of Horror Now Live +

    4fa9f52bef4bf7e94bcb57bc04254fec 160 120 The famous museum gets into the holiday spirit! Read More
  • Win a Screen-Used Prop from Terrortory 2 +

    4ef1dd01429c65268bf68c2c72fb5225 160 120 You can win one of two maps used in the film! Read More
  • Meet the Scary New Kids on the Block with Spooky Girls +

    C48a822aa101464869b18991f31672b1 160 120 Space Between Entertainment launches Kickstarter campaign for an awesome new collection. Read More
  • Long Lost from Scout Comics Optioned for TV +

    12a99fb4a6031c6b19ab8724ecb10a6a 160 120 The spooky series from Matthew Erman and Lisa Sterle could be heading to the small screen from Jenny Klein. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3


Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer DVD Review

Written by Steve Pattee

DVD released by Dark Sky Films

Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer 01 Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer 02

Directed by John McNaughton
Written by Richard Fire and John McNaughton
1986, Region 1 (NTSC), 83 minutes, Unrated
DVD released on September 27th, 2005

Michael Rooker as Henry
Tom Towles as Otis
Tracey Arnold as Becky

Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer 03 Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer 04


On the surface, Henry (Michael Rooker – Days of Thunder, Mississippi Burning) is polite and, at times, even friendly.  But beneath that surface, there is a man filled with rage and a desire to kill.  His preference, like most serial killers, is women, but Henry will take care of anyone who crosses him, because he is a not a man to be fucked with.

It isn’t long into the movie when Henry shows Otis, his roommate and former cellmate, how to kill a person — justifying killing by claiming it’s always necessary. Otis quickly takes to his new hobby, and things get really disturbing when they add a video camera to the mix and start filming their extracurricular activities.

However, Otis’ sister Becky moves in with the duo and there is a quick attraction between her and Henry.  When Becky finds out from Otis that Henry killed his own mother, she seems a bit surprised, but takes it in stride.  Even more odd is when she asks Henry directly, and he confirms it, she seems understanding.

With a whole household full of whack jobs, things are guaranteed to be interesting.

Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer 05 Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer 06


When Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is mentioned, it is more often than not followed with "loosely based on Henry Lee Lucas."  And that is not fair to the movie.

Yes, director John McNaughton got the idea for the movie after watching a "20/20" interview with Henry Lee Lucas.  Yes, the opening scene has a dead female laid out based on a photograph of one of Lucas' victims.  Yes, in addition to a character named Henry, there is one named Otis and another named Becky (presumably named after Lucas' real-life cohort, Otis Toole, and lover, Becky Powell).  I don't dispute that it was loosely based on Lucas' life.  The similarities are there.

However, are Psycho or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre remembered for being loosely based on killer Ed Gein?  No.  They are remembered for their antagonists, Norman Bates and Leatherface, respectively.  And Henry should have the same respect.  Because Michael Rooker's performance as Henry is probably one of the best, if not the best, performances of a killer I've ever seen.

Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer 07 Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer 08

Admittedly, Killer is closer to the truth than Psycho and Massacre, but Rooker is captivating as the maniacal Henry.  When he is on screen, he radiates charisma and you better watch him because if you don't, I do believe he'll kill you.  Rooker doesn't just act Henry, he becomes him.  He is so intense in this role, at times I felt I was watching documentary footage rather than a movie.  The only people that come immediately to mind that pulled the killer role off so well, aside from the aforementioned Anthony Perkins, are Steve Railsback as Charles Manson in Helter Skelter and Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs.  Rooker was so good, in fact, that even though Killer sat on the shelf for almost five years because of its "X" rating, word got out that Rooker was the man.

Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer 09 Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer 10

Rooker’s supporting cast was rock solid, too.  Tom Towles (House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects) played Otis magnificently.  Otis seems likeable enough for about five minutes, but then he just becomes that creepy neighbor you go out of your way to avoid because there is just something off about him.  Towles is great because he plays Otis so well you almost like him, even after you see him do something like eyeballing his sister in that gross, uncomfortable way.  Towles never goes over the top with the role, even though it would be very easy to do so.

Tracey Arnold is also great as Becky, Otis' sister.  She was quite believable as a woman who's been a victim all her life.  Arnold plays her role with an ingenious subtlety that really, really works.  She always puts Becky in the background, where the character seemingly belongs (because of the nature of a victim), but you never forget that she is there.  Brilliant.

Aside from the top-notch acting, the story and script are both awesome.  While there is not a lot of gore, Killer is, quite simply, brutal.  Brutal as hell.  Henry's rages, both internal and external, are so intense I feel physically and mentally drained every time I finish the movie.  And I've seen this movie a lot.   It's not so much that the violence is nonstop, because it isn't.  It's the fact that the movie seems so realistic, it takes the violence up a notch.

More often than not, Killer is on any given "top 100 horror films" list, and it's easy to see why.  It's brutal, it's nasty, it's unrelenting and it has Rooker's stellar performance.  Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is just an awesome movie.

Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer 11 Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer 12

Video and Audio:

Considering its age and $100,000 budget, Killer's 4:3 OAR looks good.  Certainly it's not a pristine picture, and there is grain throughout, but this is the best I've seen this film look.

The image is clean, the blacks are solid and the skin tones are natural.  An overall great looking picture.

Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer 13 Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer 14

Killer's Dolby 2.0 sounds great.  As this is not an action movie, 5.1 or DTS is not needed.  Robert McNaughton's brilliant score never overpowers the dialogue and creates the perfect atmosphere for the movie.

English subtitles are offered.

Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer 15 Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer 16

Special Features:

On disc one of this two disc special edition is a commentary by director John McNaughton, moderated by David Gregory.  It is a fascinating commentary to listen to and any fan of the film should give it a spin.

Also on disc one is a 28-picture gallery and trailers for Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer 2 and The Manson Family.

Disc two holds the rest of the special features, and when I popped in the DVD, I wept with joy.

“Portrait: The Making of Henry” is about an hour long and is in-depth look at the film, from how the money was raised to the first screenings.  It seems most of the people involved are interviewed, including McNaughton, Rooker, Arnold and Towles.  One of the most fascinating parts of this documentary is the discussion on the “X” rating the film originally got from the MPAA, what the MPAA said needed to be changed and why the film sat on the shelf from 1986 to 1990.

Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer 17 Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer 18

“The Serial Killers: Henry Lee Lucas” is a documentary taken straight from The Serial Killers and tells the real life story of Lucas.  This is a good piece to watch, as it bookends the movie nicely.

There are about 20 minutes of deleted scenes and outtakes available, with commentary by McNaughton.  It looks like the original sound was not available, but McNaughton does an excellent job explaining what’s going on, so the audio is not missed.

Wrapping up disc two are some original storyboards.

Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer 19 Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer 20


Movie: Fivestars Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer Blu Ray
Buy Amazon Us
Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer Small
Buy Amazon Us
Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer Small
Buy Amazon Video
Video: Fourstars
Audio: Fourstars
Features: Fivestars
Overall: Fivestars

Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer 21 Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer 22


I remember the first time I saw Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, 15 years ago.  It blew me away then, and it blows me away now.  Often, movies lose their appeal as time goes on, but not here.  Every time I watch Killer, it's new again and it never gets old. If you are a horror fan, there is no reason why this one shouldn't be in your collection.




About The Author
Author: Steve Pattee
Administrator, US Editor
He's the puppet master. You don't see him, but he pulls the strings that gets things done. He's the silent partner. He's black ops. If you notice his presence, it's the last thing you'll notice — because now you're dead. He's the shadow you thought you saw in that dark alleyway. You can have a conversation with him, and when you turn around to offer him a cup of coffee, he's already gone.
Recent Articles


Popular Categories





  • 1
  • 2

Join Us!

Hit the buttons below to follow us, you won't regret it...