Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Henry (Michael Rooker) is a drifter who also happens to like killing people in all sorts of nasty ways.  He hooks up with an old pal Otis and they share an apartment.  Otis’ sister Becky arrives from out of town and moves in with them.  Otis soon succumbs to Henry’s murderous ways and tries to sexually assault his sister which makes Henry furious (as you would expect).

This film met with plenty of controversy after it was made.  Novice director John McNaughton was asked by a couple of independent film producers to make a serial killer for an incredibly low budget and on 16MM.  It’s incredibly grim and features full on realistic violence and make up effects.  Rooker who has since gone to be a regular in James Gunn’s films and is now a major Hollywood character actor is electrifying as the psychopathic Henry.  Ample support comes from Tom Towles and Tracy Arnold as Otis and Becky respectively.

The BBFC in the UK didn’t take too kindly to Henry and butchered (no pun intended) and re-edited it on its initial release even after the distributor had pre-cut it for distribution and classification.  Eventually good sense prevailed and it was released uncut.  In America the film equally had it’s problems with the MMPA where the film makers faced an X certificate (usually deemed for pornos).  It garnered film festival and unrated screenings where it more than made its production budget back.  Not bad for a film intended to go straight to video.

Arrow have really gone to town on the special features with their release.  Documentaries, censorship history, trailers and interviews among others.  The film has been restored in 4K and has a stereo and DTS 5.1 soundtrack.  Not bad for what was intended as a cheap exploitation flick.

Henry has lost none of its power in the 30 odd years since it was made.  Like I said above it’s grimly violent and not for the easily upset.  Maybe I’m a little twisted but the scene with the TV guy still makes me chuckle, however the rest of the film isn’t no laughing matter.

A genuine piece of majestic cinema which is given the treatment it so richly deserves.