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File:Henryportrait 1879.jpg

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a controversial 1986 film that follows the exploits of a serial killer named Henry.

The film starts out with a girl named Becky, who just got out of a tough relationship with her convict husband and heads to Chicago to make some money for herself and her daughter. She's staying with her brother Otis who has taken in Henry as a house guest. Becky and Henry share troubled pasts, which gives them a somewhat romantic connection while Henry and Otis begin a bond based on their shared desires for random violence and go on a killing spree.

The film is notable for two major reasons; 1) launching the career of the unknown actor Michael Rooker and 2) its extreme violence and rape scenes that caused a huge amount controversy with the MPAA and lead to several different edits of the film in the UK as well as on home video.

Tropes used in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer include:


  • Black Comedy: Director John McNaughton, on the 20th Anniversary DVD release, says he finds the conversations that Henry and Otis have when they're not committing murders to be this, a sort of very dark comedy duo.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: Of serial killer and slasher films that have us root for the villain and may sometimes even give them a sympathetic motive. Here we're given the Serial Killer character in its rawest form and the result is more sickening than entertaining.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Otis.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Henry becomes quite offended by the idea of necrophilia.
    • Debatable. It's probably more a case of not wanting to leave behind forensic evidence than any actual moral objection.
      • However, Henry does not take kindly to the concept of incest at all.
  • In-Universe Camera: Whenever Otis and Henry film their murders.
  • Kill'Em All
  • Mood Whiplash: McNaughton said this was exactly what he was going for when he went from the murder of the TV shop owner in one scene (which was supposed to be funny and make us root for Henry and Otis), to Henry and Otis videotaping the murder of an entire family the next.
  • Serial Killer: Henry and Otis are particularly disturbing examples.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Henry Lee Lucas was a real serial killer who confessed to killing over 600 people... but was only convicted for 11 killings. The film is more or less based on Lee's claims than his actual crimes.
    • It actually caused a huge scandal as police fed Lucas with details from various crimes, in many cases to clear unsolved murders: thus meaning the real killers were not pursued. Lucas himself got distinction as being the only death row prisoner spared by (at that time) Governor George W. Bush of Texas. He died in prison from cancer, and Otis Tate also expired of natural causes while incarcerated.
    • The girl Becky was based on was actually twelve years old.
  • Villain Protagonist: Henry
  • Villainous Incest: Poor Becky; first her father and later her brother.
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