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HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (BLU RAY) (1986)
Published by David Carter on 2009/12/15 (553 reads)
Directed by John McNaughton
Review by David Carter
Released by Dark Sky Films
Running Time: 83 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Color format: Color
Audio/Subtitles: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo English
Region Code: All, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: Full Frame 1.33:1
16:9 Enhanced: Yes
Special Features: Commentary track, still gallery, making of, Henry Lee Lucas documentary, deleted scenes, storyboards, interview with director
Trailer Online: No (not of the Blu Ray release)
Short Version: The definitive release of the horror masterpiece
HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER is one of the scariest movies of all time. Add to that the film’s status as one of the best realized independent films of all time and you have the makings of one of the most unique horror classics of the twentieth century. Any release of HENRY is big news but Dark Sky Films has secured a true coup by bringing the film to Blu Ray for the first time.
What makes HENRY so frightening is the film’s reality. Based on real-life killer Henry Lee Lucas, the film merely uses facts as a jumping off point to delve into the title character’s mind. In an ironic twist, the real Henry Lee Lucas had his claims of hundreds of victims disproven as a fantasy designed by him and overzealous lawmen. Rather than taking inspiration from cinematic horror villains or a truth-impaired ex-con, John McNaughton crafted something far more terrifying: an anonymous killer with the ability to appear completely normal.
Henry’s normalcy is the primary reason he is both successful as a killer and so chilling. At one point in the film, he remarks to his companion Otis that the best way to kill without being caught to purposefully not have a pattern or a motive. Random acts of unspeakable violence are Henry and Otis’ trade in the film, and the lack of any stock horror cinema “trigger event” – wandering to the wrong place, opening graves, etc – makes the audience feel like potential victims rather than passive viewers.
The benefits of time have made HENRY’s differences from horror cinema of the same time period more evident. At a time when the Freddys and Jasons of the world were becoming more and more like avatars for the audience’s vicarious revenge, HENRY presented a villain that it was impossible to identify with. Propelled by Michael Rooker’s spellbinding performance, the film avoids any anti-hero trappings or even traditional villain roles for a matter-of-fact approach to Henry’s crimes. HENRY is at times purposefully slow-paced to the point of dullness to reiterate how fully ingrained into Henry’s life his serial murders are. HENRY is a simple film about a man doing his job everyday; that job just happens to be serial murder.
Dark Sky Films brings HENRY to Blu Ray in a manner that won’t leave anyone disappointed. This is the best print of the film we’ve ever seen. Keep in mind HENRY’s low-budget, 16mm roots; don’t expect to see pristine visuals. Much like Dark Sky’s Blu Ray of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, HENRY is grainy and scratchy at times but still worlds better than older versions.
Adding to the disc’s appeal is a wealth of bonus features. Director McNaughton provides commentary for the film and for a handful of outtakes and appears in an interview from 1998. Dark Sky takes full advantage of Blu Ray’s larger storage capacity and includes a full documentary on Henry Lee Lucas as a special feature as well.
If you currently don’t have HENRY on some format, this new Blu Ray release is the your chance to not only get the movie but to get it in the best and most complete version available to date. I rarely endorse “double-dipping” on releases but this upgrade of HENRY is one of the few times where I feel it would be justified to get a second copy of the film.
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