Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer


Viewed – 14 April 2022  Blu-ray

I saw this notorious drama on a heavily censored VHS rental years ago and decided it was one of the more disturbing serial killer movies I’d seen.  Of course over the years it’s shock value has diluted.  These days the boundaries of what is allowed to be seen on screen has been pushed to a much harder degree than what would have been banned back in the eighties.  That being said, this movie still has the power to disturb.

Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Walking Dead) plays sociopath and killer Henry – loosely based on real-life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas who kills at random and without motive, drifting from town to town.  After befriending Otis (Tom Towles) and moving into his run-down apartment they are soon joined by Otis’ younger sister Becky and their simple dynamic is complicated once Henry begins involving Otis in his murderous ‘hobby’.

Directed my John McNaughton (Wild Things) with a cold, semi-documentary style this is a movie that doesn’t offer explanation or back story but simply explores a week in the life of a killer.  Rooker is unnervingly convincing, aided well by his co-stars and McNaughton’s ominous, matter-of-fact tone.  It doesn’t offer answers and is all that more powerful for it, offering some still-to-this-day shocking scenes (the home invasion).  The acting isn’t Silence of the Lambs Oscar stuff by a long stretch and some scenes are quite amateurish, not helped by a low budget and filmed-on-the-fly locations.  Yet it manages to pack a punch even all these years later.

I picked up the recent Arrow Video 4K Blu-Ray release. The picture quality, a new restoration supervised by the director is very grainy but close-up detail is good. The soundtrack is offered in its original 2.0 stereo and a new 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio option. Dialogue is mostly clear apart from one segment based under a bridge, which was very echoey. Extras consist of interviews, which are from a number of years back, censorship featurettes covering both American and British censor history, making of, deleted scenes and photo galleries. The limited edition set also comes with a poster, booklet and a separate booklet showing the original storyboards. Three director commentaries, one of which is brand new rounds off the presentation. Impressive stuff.

Verdict:

(the movie) Recommended

(the Blu-ray) Recommended

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