And you thought Hannibal Lecter was scary. Think Henry . . . a common name, an uncommon film. It was a true game-changer, a film so upsetting in its blunt depiction of an amoral murderer that it made the slasher films of its time look like cartoons. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer became a lightning rod in heated debates about cinema and censorship but has only grown in stature since its first showing in 1986. Now, on the 30th anniversary of its momentous debut, it returns in a 4K restoration on digital platforms and Blu-ray on December 6, following a nationwide theatrical release.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a chilling profile of a cold-blooded killer that, 30 years after its historic festival premiere, has lost none of its power to shock. The film, loosely based on a true story, has been hailed as one of the most disturbing and terrifying examinations of mass murderers ever filmed.
Henry (Walking Dead icon Michael Rooker) is a psychopathic drifter who has coldly murdered a number of people for no particular reason and without any remorse. Leaving bodies in his wake, Henry makes his way to Chicago, where his he settles into the run-down apartment of his drug-dealing former prison friend and occasional roommate Otis (played by Tom Towles).
Also moving into the space is Otis’s younger sister Becky (Tracy Arnold), who is fleeing her abusive husband. As she fends off her brother’s incestuous advances, Becky finds herself attracted to Henry – unaware that he, along with Otis, are continuing their murderous rampage.
Director John McNaughton completed the film in 1986, and it was shown at that year’s Chicago International Film Festival. Yet it wasn’t until 1990 that a U.S. distributor was brave enough to give it a wide release. Henry predates the NC-17 rating and received its predecessor, the X rating, on three separate occasions.
As a result of it and related issues with Almodovar’s Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down, Phillip Kaufman’s Henry & June and Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, the MPAA created the NC-17 as its replacement on September 26,1990. Henry‘s current rating is “X (Surrendered)” though a renewed rating is pending. The film’s violence, and the clinical, detached portrayal of Henry by the unforgettable Michael Rooker, originally earned it the MPAA’s highly restrictive NC-17 rating.
The response from both critics and the public was as visceral as the film itself, and it went on to gain praise as one of the most compelling and disturbing films of modern cinema. A whole new generation of film-goers will be introduced to Henry with an amazing new transfer that puts the film firmly back into the vanguard of contemporary cinematic horror.
In celebration of its 30th anniversary, the film returns with a thrilling, cinematic presentation that cements its reputation as one of the most harrowing and original American films of all time. Dark Sky Films, a division of MPI Media Group, proudly presents it in a brand-new 4K scan and restoration from the 16mm original camera negatives, and featuring a new 5.1 audio mix from the stereo 35mm mag reels, all approved by director John McNaughton.
They special features also make a killing and include:
- In Defense of Henry: An Appreciation
- Henry vs MPAA: A Visual History
- Henry at the BBFC
- It’s Either You or Them: An Interview with Artist Joe Coleman
- In The Round: A Conversion with John McNaughton
- Portrait: The Making of Henry
- Deleted Scenes & Outtakes
- Feature Commentary with John McNaughton
- Interview with John McNaughton, 1998
- Trailer (original)
- Trailer (30th anniversary)
- Still Gallery
- Reversible Sleeve featuring original Joe Coleman artwork