Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer - 30th Anniversary (Blu-Ray) : Release Year - 1986

Overall Rating : 8/10

Directed By : John McNaughton

Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead (TV) )
Tom Towles (House of 1000 Corpses)
Tracy Arnold

Supplied By : Dark Sky Films

Film Reviewed By : Rick L. Blalock

Date Reviewed : December. 8, 2016


Henry, a psychopathic drifter who has left a trail of bodies in his wake, settles for a while at the dilapidated Chicago apartment of ex-prison mate Otis. Into this toxic environment comes Otis s younger sister Becky, who s fleeing an abusive marriage and looking for a place to stay. Deflecting her brother s incestuous advances, Becky finds herself attracted to Henry and sees him as a potential lover and herself as his possible savior. What she doesn t realize is that Otis and Henry are now killing together, sinking to ever more terrifying depths of depravity. As Becky tries to get her life back on track, she looks to Henry for a way out. But is redemption even possible for a man like Henry?

In celebration of the film s 30th anniversary, Dark Sky Films is proud to present Henry in a brand new 4K scan, restored from the 16mm original camera negative and approved by director John McNaughton and producer Steven A. Jones, featuring a new 5.1 mix restoration from the stereo 35mm mag reels. Sure to send shivers of mortal dread through a whole new generation of filmgoers, this new presentation puts Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer firmly back into the vanguard of contemporary cinematic horror.
In the 1986 film, HENRY : PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER we come to meet 3 common individuals. Taking place in Chicago, Henry and Otis are pals who live together, after meeting in prison. Soon joining them, is Otis' sister, Becky, who has come to Chicago, after splitting with her husband, and leaving her daughter behind. Becky stays with them, as she looks for work. She soon finds it at a local beauty parlor shampooing hair. Henry on the other hand, has been doing work on and off in pest control. While Otis works as a gas attendant. Also selling weed on the side. It is Becky's arrival however, that stirs up habits, especially when it comes to Henry, who has a dark side to him. The reason for his previous imprisonment was matricide, and murder, as he killed his mother, and her boyfriend. Although that was in his teen years, it's apparent that Henry still possesses that trill to kill, as he leave behind fresh trail of bodies, as he go on about his everyday life. Thus showing no sign of these activities to others. But soon, they will be out in the open, when a night out with Otis turns deadly. They kill two prostitutes. It's an event that sets the wheels in motion for the duo, as they soon embark on a string of thrill kills, after Otis catches his first taste of death With the proverbial blood on their hands, they go on to kill seemingly, one after the other. It's a violent spree that is later captured on video by Otis as he use a video camcorder, which was earlier lifted from one of their victims. However, the fast life of murder for the two of them, would not endure, as internal turmoil brings Henry to the edge, as it seems that Henry will stop at nothing to ensure that he will not be caught. Even if it means killing those he grow close to.

Released in 1986, Director John McNaughton's HENRY : PORTRAIT OF SERIAL KILLER, is an intimate look at the life of a serial killer like no other. While there have been countless bio-pics made about serial killers over time, none of them quite match the gritty realism of this film. Technically, HENRY : PORTRAIT OF SERIAL KILLER is NOT a bio-pic about Henry Lee Lucas, and his partner Ottis Toole, however it does use their first names, as well as their preconceived mannerisms and quirks. The film uses the ideas of these real life serial killers, to tell a grisly tale, of what their life of killing might have been like. The results are chilling. In fact, personally, this is one of the most bone chilling films that I have ever seen.

Here, we witness the exploits of Henry and Otis as they do what they do. While this is a move that was shot on film, its near shot on video quality, gives the film an almost grimy feeling. which really adds to the film. For nearly its entire runtime, the film carries a rather lurking ominous tone, that's full of artistic flare. I thought that it was extra chilling, and at the same time creative, how Mcnaughton approaches the grisly crimes. There are times in the film where the characters talk over a scene, while visually, we see what they are describing. This is especially brilliant when we see one of Henry's victims on screen. We then see the end result, while hear the sounds of said crime played over the visuals. It's a clever way to kill two birds with one stone, and save time, as the viewer is treated to 2 things at once. This is just one of the several clever aspects of this film. And while i'm at it, I want to mention the scene that I found to be most effective. It's a moment shortly after the theft of the camcorder. Henry and Otis go out and brutally murder a family. Otis, fascinated, gets the crime on tape - and it is a tape that he would want to watch several times over. Well, as Otis watches the tape, the movie is soon fixed on just the TV, which the film is being viewed by Henry and Otis. The film's primary focus on the TV itself, gives us, the viewer, the striking feeling that we too, are in the same room with them, watching the video, It's really creepy, and definitely effective in every sense.

Before its initial release, HENRY : PORTRAIT OF SERIAL KILLER would do battle with the MPAA who deemed the film too violent for exhibition, without an X rating(this struggle is documented on a featurette included on this disc). Yes, this film is dark, and violent a great deal. It was shocking for its time, and is still emotionally moving today. Unfortunately though, times have changed, as we now live in a real world, that I feel, is now much worse than what is seen here.

Shot on a lower budget, HENRY : PORTRAIT OF SERIAL KILLER is one of those films that is wise beyond its given budget. First off, while the film's main cast is limited. The choice of the actors to portray the characters was definitely key. When it comes to Michael Rooker, and his portrayal of the titular serial killer, the choice could not have been any better. Rooker, in this film, basically loses himself in this character, for a strong, sometimes genuinely frightening performance. Alongside Rooker, was Tom Towles as "Otis", who is essentially a follower of Henry. For the performance, Towles nicely delves into an unpredictably wild behavior pattern for the character that works well, adding contrast between the 2 killers. While Henry is more cold, and calculated, Otis is an individual who leaves room for mistake. The character of "Becky", who is the sister of Otis in the film, is portrayed by Tracy Arnold. For her part, Arnold does well in portraying a character who is vulnerable, and one who later, finds herself caught in the middle of the 2 men. Although the film never truly elaborates on this, the relationship between the 3 characters, is pretty much an unspoken(and in the case of Becky and Otis - incestuous) love triangle.

With this viewing, I have seen HENRY : PORTRAIT OF SERIAL KILLER many times now. And no matter how many times that I happen to see it, it is one film that never seems to lose any of it's effectiveness. The direction, the story, the acting, and even the music itself, collectively make HENRY : PORTRAIT OF SERIAL KILLER, one of the most memorable films, that you are likely to see, due to its authentic, and unsettling portrayal of the life of a serial killer.

For this release, DARK SKY FILMS celebrates HENRY : PORTRAIT OF SERIAL KILLER's 30th anniversary with this Blu-Ray re-release, which features a new 4K scan of the film from its 16mm film negative. As for the look of the transfer here, the film is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The new 4K scan, does give the film's look a slight improvement, as the colors are nicely balanced, with the natural film grain present. As for the sound, DARK SKY FILMS have given the sound a new 5.1 restoration from the 35mm mag reels. The sound here great, as the film's haunting score is heard up front with clarity.

This 30 Anniversary Blu-Ray also featurettes a wealth of supplemental material such as featurettes, a making of, deleted scenes, trailers, as well as an interview with Director John McNaughton.

The featurettes and interviews included here, give the disc even more value, as everything here is nicely presented. Personally, I enjoyed the featurette concerning HENRY and the MPAA, as well as the candid interview with the film's poster artist, Joe Coleman.

Some details of these features are as follows.

"In Defense of Henry : An Appreciation" (20mins 43s)
This is a featurette featuring Film Critics Joe Bob Briggs and Kim Morgan, Filmmakers Errol Morris, and Joe Swanberg, along with Associate Professor at Northwestern University, Jeffery Sconce.

"Henry Vs. MPAA : A Visual History" (10mins 52s)
This photo featurette documents HENRY : PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER's long fight with the MPAA to secure an R rating.

"Henry at the BBFC : An Interview with NIGHTMARE USA author Stephen Thrower" (27mins 25s)
In this featurette, Author of NIGHTMARE USA, Stephen Thrower tells the trials and tribulations of films and the British Board of Film Classification He explains the sensitivity of the BBFC, when it comes to the rating, and banning of films, and in this case, who they felt about HENRY : PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER.

"It's Either You or Them : An Interview with Artist Joe Coleman" (8mins 43s)
This is an interview with poster artist Joe Coleman, who explains how he discovered HENRY : PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, and his love for it.

"In the Round ; A Conversation with John McNaughton" (28mins 5s)
A discussion wit Director John McNaughton, who recalls growing up in Chicago, his first jobs, as well as his journey to film. Alonf with discussing his approach to film making, John also talks about the ins and outs of what makes HENRY : PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER.

"Portrait : The Making of HENRY" (52mins 355s)
An extensive featurette, chronicling the making of HENRY : PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER.

"Interview with John McNaughton, 1998" (30mins 44s)
An interview with Director John McNaughton, which first appeared on the now out of print DVD release of HENRY.
5.5/10 The film features a lot of morbid imagery, as well as multiple sights of blood. There is also an eye gouging, as well as a dismemberment.
8/10 The film's score is fantastic. The words haunting, chilling, and ominous, all accurately describe it.
HENRY : PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER is a dark and twisted tale of violence. However, it isn't the violence that necessarily draws me to it. I more so like it's style. I haven't seen another film quite like it. If you have yet to see this film, then I highly recommend it. And for those who have, and are thinking about purchasing this release of the film, I say that it is well worth it. If you are in fact, a fan of the film.

Special Features include :

- NEW 4K Restoration
- In Defense of Henry: An Appreciation
- Henry vs MPAA: A Visual History
- Henry at the BBFC
- It's Either You or Them: An Interview with Artist Joe Coleman
- In The Round: A Conversation with John McNaughton
- Portrait: The Making of Henry
- Deleted Scenes & Outtakes
- Feature Commentary with John McNaughton
- Interview with John McNaughton, 1998
- Trailer (original)
- Trailer (30th anniversary)
- Still Gallery
- Storyboards
- Reversible Sleeve featuring original Joe Coleman artwork


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