- Actors: Michael Rooker, Tom Towles
- Director: John McNaughton
- Format: Subtitled, Widescreen
- Language: English
- Subtitles: English
- Region: Region A/1
- Number of discs: 1
- Rated: Unrated
- Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
- Release Date: December 6, 2016
- Run Time: 82 minutes
The character of Henry is based loosely on the real-life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, including many of the facts about the killer’s life in the movie. There are some changes, but the relationship that the serial killer has with an ex-con friend was borrowed from reality. The murders in the film, however, were taken from the countless lies that Lucas told once in prison. He confessed to crimes that he hadn’t committed once he had already been sentenced. The element of truth is part of what makes Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer so disturbing, much like In Cold Blood. The fabricated murders simply add to the myth of the man.
Completed in 1986, it took years for Henry to finally reach public audiences. There were issues with MPAA decisions and the producer’s inability to recognize the low-budget genius of director John McNaughton’s film. The film was shot on 16 mm in less than a month’s time, but even during the initial limited theatrical release it ended up making six times what it cost. Since then it has become a cult classic, giving credit to the simple disturbing elements of the film.
The highlight of the film is Michael Rooker’s performance as Henry. Even when the film hadn’t yet been released, the attention from this performance was enough to build up Rooker’s career. He is frightening because of how normal he can often appear, rationally thinking through his violent actions. While most serial killers are portrayed as compulsive and emotional about their killing, Henry just seems to do it to pass the time. To him it is no different than going to a bar to try and pick up on a girl. The kill is a challenge for him and variety is the only way that he stays discreet.
A 16mm film is obviously not going to look as good as a 35mm when presented in high definition, but this is the best version that I have seen of Henry. Though it is full-screen, because that is how it was first presented, the picture clarity is sharper than DVD. This isn’t the first time Henry has been released on Blu-ray, but the Anniversary Edition comes with a collection of mostly new extras.
Along with the commentary track featuring director John McNaughton and a vintage interview with the filmmaker from 1998, there are several features about the historical significance of the film. “In Defense of Henry” is an appreciation of the film, whereas “Henry vs. MPAA” gives a visual history of the lengthy process of rating this disturbing film. Additional interviews include a BBFC conversation with “Nightmare USA” author, Stephen Thrower, as well as an interview with artist Joe Coleman. There is also a making-of documentary and a collection of additional footage, including deleted scenes and outtakes, and a mass of promotional materials.
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 8/10
Historical Significance: 9/10
Special Features: 8.5/10