HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (1986)
30th Anniversary Blu-ray
Label: DarK Sky Films
Region Code: A
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, English LPCM 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Fullscreen (1.33:1)
Director: John McNaughton
Cast: Michael Rooker, Tom Towles, Tracy Arnold
Synopsis: Henry (Michael Rooker) is a psychopathic drifter who has coldly murdered a number of people for no particular reason and without any remorse. Leaving scores of bodies in his wake, Henry makes his way to Chicago, where his murderous streak continues and he settles into the rundown apartment of his drug-dealing former prison friend Otis (Tom Towles). Also moving into the space is Otis’s younger sister Becky (Tracy Arnold), who is fleeing from her abusive husband. Henry soon reveals his troubled childhood background to Becky, which resulted in Henry’s murder of his mother, the crime that landed him in prison. Unbeknownst to Becky, Henry continues to commit a series of random killings along with Otis, who has quickly developed a taste for murder…
Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer (1986) never fails to elicit a gut-level response from me, one of the darkest and most chilling of all serial killer movies ever made, it opens with a nauseating electronic score and a montage of horrific after-murder images of women in various states of death and undress. The images include a nude woman and left on the side of the road, a corpse floating in a pond, a woman slumped over a toilet with broken beer bottle shoved into her face, it's nauseating stuff. Enter Henry, played with quality cold intensity by Michael Rooker (Mallrats) a day-laborer who gets by on menial work such as bug killing, he drives an old rusty car and lives with his ex-con drug dealing Otis (Tom Towles) in a squalid Chicago apartment. At first Otis is unaware of his flat mates proclivities for murdering women, which is revealed later in the film when the duo are tag teaming a pair of whores in Henry's car when he suddenly kills both the women to the shock of Otis, but not too much of a shock, for the pair embark on a murder spree together soon after. Otis's sister Becky (Tracy Arnold) comes to stay with them following a break-up with her abusive husband, and soon after her and Henry bond over stories of matricide and sexual molestation, which is just so friggin' so sweet.
Throughout the movie we follow Otis and Henry as they embark on a chilling murder spree, each more chilling and depraved than the last. One of the most notorious is the murder of suburban family inside their home, which is caught on video tape by the the killers, a harrowing encounter, one that slyly makes the viewer complicit in the awful crime, which includes the murder of a father, mother and their young son, this is frightful stuff. Another murder has the two visiting a fence in search of a new TV, when he gets on their bad side (bad idea) and ends up stabbed multiple times with a soldering iron, the coup de gra being a TV set smashed over his head, electrocuting him.
Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the movie is the cold detachment of the killers, they have no remorse, no guilt, no moral issue with their sickening crimes, with Henry being the more calm of the pair, his demeanor is always soft-spoken and collected, punctuated by extreme fits of violence. Otis is more wild of the pair, the loose-canon with a bad comb-over and bad teeth, he's way sleazier compared to Henry who is well-mannered by comparison. Towles gives a wonderfully greasy performance here as the creep whose twisted ways extend to having incestuous thoughts about his own sister, which doesn't sit to well with Henry, leading to a confrontation and a brutal eye-gouging scene.
The movie is set in Chicago and really captures the seedier part of the city in the 80s, this is is not the Chicago from the John Hughes movies I saw as a kid, this is the bad part of town, this is where the low-lives live and where bad things happen everyday. Rooker is astounding in the role, I love his conversations with Otis and his sister, winning Otis over with his murder-rules and how to get away with it, speaking with his sister, sharing traumatic stories about his no-legged father, his whore of his mother and how he murdered her, sometimes his stories are contradictory, and it all adds to his character.
Henry is not a fun watch, this is not a Friday the 13th type 80s slasher you can rewatch and have fun with, this is a nauseating movie based in reality, one of those movies that makes you feel dirty. Even though the gore is not over-stated there's plenty of bloody violence but it's not of the Tom Savini variety, this is just real world violence that makes you feel sick, which is why the movie is so notorious and why it has prospered for so long on home video, this is tough stuff, this is a horror classic.
Audio/Video: Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer arrives on Blu-ray for a second time from Dark Sky Films with a freshly minted 4K scan and restoration from the 16mm original camera negatives,with a brand new DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mix from the stereo 35mm mag reels, all approved by director John McNaughton. This is the best it has ever appeared on home video, framed in the original full frame aspect ratio the movie looks a bit better than the 2009 Blu-ray, the details are a bit finer, the clarity is slightly sharper, but this was shot on 16mm and will always look that way, but this is a notch better than the 2009 release. The new surround mix sound very good, not an in-your-face mix, very subtle, the electronic score bleeding into the surrounds to great effect, the original LPCM 2.0 stereo track is also included, along with optional English subtitles.
Th A/V upgrade is nice, but just being honest Henry is not a movie you need to see cleaned-up to be effective, a lot like TCM, this is a grim and gritty watch, no upgrade necessary, but the reason you should upgrade is for the extras on this release which total nearly three hours in length. We begin with the vintage extras that have been carried over from the 2009 Blu-ray, the audio commentary and 31-min '88 interview with director McNaughton, the 55-min making of doc, 22-min of deleted scenes/outtakes, original trailer and storyboards. The only extra not carried over is "The Serial Killers: Henry Lee Lucas" doc that was on both the 2008 Blu-ray and the 2006 DVD.
New to this release are 88-mins of brand new extras which are excellent. We have a new 28-min interview with McNaughton, a 9-min interview with Artist Joe Coleman who created the awesome one-sheet poster for the movie (which is available as a reverse art option on this release), an 11-min visual essay about the history of the MPAA and the movies struggles with the fickle ratings board, plus a 28-min interview with author Stephen Thrower who goes into great detail about the movies struggles with the BBFC. There's also an 11-min appreciation of the film featuring director Joe Swanberg, film critic Kim Morgan, cinema professor Jeffrey Sconce, Joe Bob Briggs (MonsterVision) and legendary documentary filmmaker Errol Morris, plus the new 30th Anniversary Trailer for the film.
As far as packaging extras I am very pleased that Dark Sky have seen fit to offer a reversible sleeve of artwork, the grotesque Joe Coleman artwork that was featured on the 20th anniversary DVD but was missing from the 2009 Bl-ray, glad to see that corrected, I think that option is preferable to the a-side artwork which is a bit drab by comparison. Inside there's a 12-page booklet with writing on the film from author Stephen Thrower with a few behind-the-scenes images, it also includes notes about the new 4K transfer/restoration and audio mixes.
– NEW In the Round: A Conversation with John McNaughton (28 Min) HD
– NEW In Defense of Henry: An Appreciation (11 Min) HD
– NEW Henry vs. MPAA: A Visual History (11 Min) HD
– NEW Henry at the BBFC: An Interview with NIGHTMARE USA Author Stephen Thrower (27 Min) HD
– NEW It’s Either You or Them: An Interview with Artist Joe Coleman (9 Min) HD
– NEW 30th Anniversary Trailer (2 Min) HD
– Interview with John McNaughton, 1988 (31 Min)
- Commentary with Director John McNaughton (21 Min) HD
– Portrait: The Making of Henry (53 Min)
– Deleted Scenes/Outtakes (22 Min)
– Original Trailer (2 Min) HD
– Still Gallery (45 Images) HD
– Storyboards (81 Images) HD
– 12-Page Booklet with an Essay by Stephen Thrower
Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer (1986) is still a harrowing watch, an uneasy exploration of the mind and life of a cold-blooded killer, this is about as near as getting inside the head of a killer as you can get without having blood on your hands, this is the real deal. The new 30th anniversary edition looks and sounds fantastic and the extras are plentiful, this is a must-own for horror fans, though not for everyone. 5/5