Sinister Screens

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) ★★★½

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer


He’s not Freddy, he’s not Jason…he’s real.

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.


Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer was considered one of the most disturbing films of its day. However, almost forty years since its release, it really doesn’t hold a candle to the splatter and violence released in more modern cinema. Yet, this movie has held its own as being a really solid film.

It straddles the line between humanizing those who dehumanize and portraying the bland and hopeless existence of a serial killer. You can’t help but to care about Henry to a certain extent and hope for change. But the life of a true serial killer is a lonely one. It begins and ends with abuse. A rewiring of the brain. The inability to feel love or belonging. It’s consumed with the insatiable need to fill something which can’t be filled. And this film is brilliant in this depiction.

The Chicago setting for this film can’t be more fitting. The murder capital of the world in all its gritty glory. Living nearby, I’ve visited many times and the cinematography perfectly captures the moody, but enchanting city. I laughed when Henry squashes the small talk from a shop owner by commenting, “fuck the bears!” This film encapsulates Chicago through and though.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer may no longer hold its status of being one of the most extreme films, but it’s time tested and remains a true classic of the serial killer subgenre. Michael Rooker’s performance is hauntingly convincing and really is the heart of this film.

Rating: ★★★½ (out of 5)

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