Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer is a single of those films you have got to admire and appreciate, even if you do not necessarily appreciate watching it. A single of the far more notorious horror films to emerge out of the eighties, it is an ugly and uncompromising film that presents an all also genuine appear at murder and those who commit the ultimate sin.
The story is amazingly simple. Henry (Michael Rooker) is a thirty some thing drifter who ends up letting his cousin, Otis (Tom Towles), come and stay with him for a while when he moves into Chicago and needs someplace to hang his hat. Otis’ sister, Becky (Tracey Arnold), is also along for the ride. Otis and Henry hit it off quite much from the get go and they choose to head out into town a single evening and choose themselves up a couple of ladies of the evening for some entertainment of the carnal sort. As soon as they’ve had their way with them, Henry kills them and Otis, in no way possessing accomplished this sort of thing ahead of, starts to get in on it also, his enthusiasm certainly growing along with his depravity.
From here on out, Otis is a changed man. He and Henry begin a critical of murders across the area, every one particular becoming much more and far more vicious and perverted than the other. It becomes virtually like a drug for Otis, whilst Henry remains calm and introverted all through their escapades. The sicker these two turn into, the far more intense their connection gets, and poor Becky ends up caught in the middle of it all.
Loosely inspired by the genuine life exploits of mass murderer Henry Lee Lucas, Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer is a refreshingly uncomfortable film in its unflinching portrayal of anything that is, at least in genre movie circles, frequently instances glamorized or trivialized. When Henry and Otis launch the infamous home invasion scene, where the record their deeds with a handheld video camera, which ends up being how we see the crimes committed, the movie switches gears and becomes some sort of perverse cinema verite.
The virtually documentary appear and really feel of the film is a large portion of its good results in that the film does not judge the characters – it offers no commentary at all over their actions and it does not preach or point fingers, nor does it genuinely ask you to recognize or sympathize with Henry and Otis. It provides no explanation for the reasoning behind their actions, we get small back story on Henry, we never know why he is the way that he is, and, as is all also frequent an occurrence in real life, we never understand why he kills – he merely does simply because he is that way. The video tape scene has such a horrifying realism to it that it truly does feel like you are watching a snuff film for a couple of minutes and none of the influence of this integral portion of the film has been lost in the twenty odd years considering that it was initial made.
We know what we’re obtaining into with this film from the opening scene of the film, in which the camera gradually pans more than a number of bodies, obviously murder victims, stashed away in swamps or ditches in rural areas outside of the city (dumping grounds, in a sense). The audio provides us a rough concept of what happened to every single of the bodies, the sounds of their failed struggles coming out of the speakers, in the end coming to a violent end.
One frequent criticism levied against the film is that it lacks characterization. We do not get to know the victims in the film at all – most of them never even have names. The murderers themselves are never ever truly explored as individuals very significantly at all, and we’re thrust into the story not at the starting, when Henry initial kills, but in the middle, when he’s currently a seasoned expert and knows what it takes. That’s a valid point – there truly is really little characterization here, but at the very same time, had a much more dramatic element been added to the film, it would have been at the cost of some of the realism that it so properly manages to create. In genuine life, we would not know any far more about these men and women than we do in the film and we would not be there from day 1 watching them grow and develop as individuals. Clearly this kind of issue is essential when you happen to be telling a story, but Henry does not so considerably tell a story as it does observe a series of events.
Shot in twenty eight days with a spending budget of just over $ 110,000.00, Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer is nevertheless an ugly film to watch, and not at all a pleasure sit through but it is 1 that every horror movie fan or self-proclaimed fan of stronger, far more intense horror photographs must check out once in a even though, even if it is only as a sort of reality verify. The film certainly tends to make you question your viewing choices and it does make you feel about why you happen to be sitting there watching it as it all plays out. It pulls no punches and the performances in this film are intense and, really frankly, damned very good. It’s a quite, really nicely produced film – nearly as well well created in a sense – and it nonetheless remains a powerful and disheartening small piece of cinematic nihilism.
On a semi connected and rather odd side note, director John McNaughton went on to make the Matt Dillon/Kevin Bacon huge price range sexploitation romp, Wild Things in 1998 and has located some accomplishment as a director but for about five years soon after Henry was made, he did not perform all that significantly. Michael Rooker, on the other hand, has worked steadily ever given that the film, his function debut, came out and has been in almost everything from Mississippi Burning to Replicant and a lot more lately The Walking Dead and Guardians Of The Galaxy. Tom Towles has shown up in both Home Of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, even though Tracy Arnold hasn’t done a entire lot since aside from a handful of scattered supporting roles.
Henry makes its 30th anniversary appearance on a 50GB Blu-ray disc in a new AVC encoded 1.33.1 fullframe 1080p high definition transfer that presents the film in its original aspect ratio taken from a new 4k scan of the original 16mm negative. The prior Blu-ray, also place out by Dark Sky Films, looked pretty solid but this is a definite upgrade. Detail and texture benefit fairly a bit from the new transfer, to the point exactly where you can spot every craggy line in the actors’ faces and each speck of dirt in the rundown apartment where significantly of the film takes place. Colors look nice and organic here, by no means artificially boosted or oversaturated, even though black levels remain sturdy and deep. There are no noticeable concerns with compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction, so the grainy appear that is inherent in the 16mm photography is nicely retained. At the very same time, there’s quite small print harm aside from a handful of small white specks now and then. Flesh tones appear nice and organic as effectively. This is a really solid improvement over the earlier release.
The original English language LPCM 2. Stereo sound mix is integrated here. It sounds clean, clear and totally free of any hiss or distortion and the levels are correctly balanced. Dialogue comes via nice and clear and the score sounds as excellent as it ever has, packing just sufficient punch to develop atmosphere appropriately. The disc also contains a newly created DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track that does a nice job of spreading out the score and some of the effects perform used in the picture to the a variety of channels throughout the mix. Optional English subtitles are included.
Lots of new extras on this release to talk about, beginning with a twenty minute piece named In Defense of Henry: An Appreciation. Right here we get interviews with Joe Swanberg, Kim Morgan, Jeffrey Sconce, Joe Bob Briggs and Errol Morris, all of whom talk about the film’s themes and supply their thoughts on why it is such an important and powerful film. It is an exciting piece full of what is primarily essential analysis and insight rather than history and trivia (which is covered actually effectively in a lot of the other supplements). The ten minute Henry Vs. The MPAA: A Visual History offers us a swift overview of the evolution of the ratings method before then going on to document the problems that this distinct film would discover itself in just before it was sooner or later released as an unrated image. Henry At The BBFC is a similar piece wherein film critic and Nightmare USA author Stephen Thrower talks for twenty eight minutes about the a variety of controversies that the film was the subject of when it was released in England. The distribution history of this picture is far far more intriguing than some may assume, specifically when it comes to its trials and tribulations in the United Kingdom. In the nine minute It’s Either You Or Them featurette we talk to poster artist Joe Coleman about the art that he came up with for this film’s most infamous one sheet variation. Right here he offers us some thoughts on the film and talks about his perform coming up with the poster art. In The Round: A Conversation With John McNaughton is just that, a new half hour long speak with the director of the film conducted by Spencer Parsons. Right here McNaughton talks about how he got into filmmaking, what he’s been up to just before and following generating Henry, some of the influences that worked their way into the final version of the film and very a bit far more. We also get a new 30th Anniversary trailer for the feature.
Nevertheless, there is a lot much more to digest right here. Dark Sky has also carried over nearly all of the extras from the two disc unique edition DVD and the very first Blu-ray release for this new reissue (missing from this release is the half hour lengthy The Serial Killers: Henry Lee Lucas featurette), starting with a function length audio commentary with director John McNaughton. In no way at a loss for words when discussing the film he’s best remembered for, McNaughton goes into really a bit of detail about how certain scenes had been shot and lit, how different performances have been coaxed out of the essential players, and how he as a director feels about not only the finished version of the film but about some of the content that he generally created for the film and the effects that it has had on viewers for the previous two decades. Although some much more scene distinct info may have been useful, McNaughton covers all of his bases in an informative and detail oriented manner which makes for what is in the end a quite educational commentary and one particular that simply holds your interest for the duration of its playback.
Clocking in at roughly fifty-two minutes in length is the superb new documentary (created by the fine people over at Blue Underground, considerably like the documentary that adorned Dark Sky’s release of The Manson Family) entitled Portrait: The Making of Henry. This documentary, by way of interviews and behind the scenes photographs and clips, does an exceptionally excellent job of filling us in on the genesis and origins of the film and the evolution that it went via throughout production. Even though it manages to overlap with the commentary track a small bit, it covers a lot of ground that McNaughton’s solo discussion of the film does not as it manages to score on screen interviews not only with the director but with Michael Rooker himself, as properly as costars Tom Towels and Tracey Arnold. It also covers the film’s uncommon soundtrack by way of some interviews with the 3 men accountable for making it and it gets some input into how issues went down on set from the producers’ standpoints as properly.
Right after that we find roughly twenty minutes of deleted scenes and outtakes from the film. The sound components for this material have been lost but they are obtainable for playback with a operating commentary by director John McNaughton who explains to the ideal of his recollection what was going on in each and every of the clips and why they had been excised from the final version of the film. A lot of this material was trimmed for pacing factors and this is not the most fascinating material you’ve ever noticed salvaged from the cutting room floor but it is nevertheless good to see it included in this set even if it really is mostly for the sake of completion. It also serves to gives us some insight into the editing process behind the film.
Initially created for the MPI 1998 DVD release of the film, the 1998 Interview With John McNaughton doesn’t cover considerably that the commentary and other extras don’t bother with but it really is still worth sitting by means of this half hour segment to get inside McNaughton’s head as he talks about horror films that he liked. He also covers creating Henry, the picture’s legacy, and functioning with the a variety of cast and crewmembers involved in the shoot – he also, of course, talks about the effect that Sony’s Port-A-Pack had on the world by providing the everyman manage of the media – clearly something that plays a big part in the film’s most infamous scene.
Rounding out the extras are the film’s original theatrical trailer, a nonetheless gallery and a wealth of original storyboards drawn up before filming took place. It really is exciting to examine these to how things play out on screen, often they are amazingly accurate. Animated menus and chapter selection are also incorporated. An insert booklet containing an essay on the film from Thrower is also integrated inside the case along with the disc. This book also contains credits for the feature and for the Blu-ray release.
One of the horrordom’s most beloved bastard kids receives an impressive 30th anniversary Blu-ray release from Dark Sky Films. The film looks and sounds greater than it ever has on property video and in addition to carrying over most of the high good quality extra features from earlier editions consists of some quite worthwhile new supplements as effectively. The grisliness and realism of the film itself tends to make Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer one of the finest horror offerings of its time, and whilst it really is not for the faint of heart, it is an outstanding film. Extremely recommended for those able to appreciate it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is costly and loud.
What Do You Feel?