Plot: What’s it about?
Henry (Michael Rooker) is a man who drifts from town, sometimes entering lives then leaving just as quickly. But when Henry enters someone’s life, he doesn’t just meet and get to know them, he brutally murders them with no remorse. He doesn’t kill to survive, to protect himself, or even as a profession, Henry kills because he has fun doing it. His sickness goes deep into his past, all the way back to his childhood, when he was abused and ended up killing his own mother. Of course his behavior has landed him in a lot of trouble with the law, and he has done some time in prison. While he was imprisoned he befriended Otis (Tom Towles), which quickly led to Henry becoming the controlling force in Otis’ life. Once the two men were free, Henry began his murderous patterns again, this time with Otis by his side. Henry and Otis would choose their victims at random and use different methods with each person, it was like a game to them. When Otis’ sister Becky (Tracy Arnold) returns to her brother’s home for a visit, the pressure within Henry grows even stronger, as Becky and Henry are drawn to one other.
If you’re a fan of serial killer movies, then this movie is a must have for your collection. While other serial killer movies might have more glitz and dazzle, this film seems almost like a documentary, and Rooker is almost too believable as our main character. I am pleased that Dark Sky Films has issued this film on Blu-ray, and they’ve even included the unrated and uncensored director’s cut, which is bound to pleased all fans of the film. This movie was given an “X” rating upon it’s screening, because of the disturbing nature of the film. I can see how this would disturb some folks, it’s done in a very realistic manner and does have some very haunting moments. Plus, Michael Rooker is downright scary in this role, he becomes Henry in this film, and it’s eerie how powerful his performance is. The violence is very brutal and realistic at times, but I don’t think the violence is any worse than most movies in the serial killer genre. In case you couldn’t tell by now, this movie is not for kiddies, so keep the little ones away when you’re watching this one. If you’re a fan of the serial killer genre, then this is one title you’ve got to own.
This film was directed and cowritten by John McNaughton, who despite a very low budget managed to create a powerful and memorable film. This is of course just a movie, but McNaughton’s style makes it seem like a documentary at times, like we’re right there watching these things happen. This was McNaughton’s feature film debut, but you’d never be able to tell, since the film is so gripping and haunting. McNaughton took some serious chances in making this movie and I think they paid off, since the film has become a cult classic over the years. If you want more McNaughton, check out Wild Things, Mad Dog and Glory, Speaking of Sex, and Condo Painting. The lead in this film is played by Michael Rooker, who turns in a performance that is almost too good. While Rooker (Mallrats, Days of Thunder) usually plays in supporting roles, he has the talent to carry a film and it shows here. This is one of the most disturbing and realistic turns I’ve seen, and I hope Rooker can soon take more leading roles. The cast of this film also included Tracy Arnold (The Shot), Tom Towles (Fortress, The Rock), Anne Bartoletti.
Video: How does it look?
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is presented in full frame, as intended. This might seem like an odd choice for high definition, given the rough, soft visual design, but the film does benefit. Obviously this won’t become a demo disc by any means, but this is a more film-like presentation than the DVD. The inherent grain remains intact and sharpness is limited, but some extra detail does creep in at times. I am glad Dark Sky has retained the harsh visuals, as that really enhances the mood and while not eye popping, this is a more than solid visual effort.
Audio: How does it sound?
I don’t have a whole lot to comment on here, as this is a basic soundtrack in all respects. This movie has a realistic texture and the audio follows that line. So don’t expect flash or bells & whistles, as this is a basic, get the job done kind of soundtrack. The audio backs up the documentary tone of the film, so instead of a polished audio presence, you have a live kind of presence. That means dialogue isn’t always crystal clear, but it enhances the atmosphere, which is what counts. So expect just what the filmmakers intended and while that means a not so refined soundtrack, that is how it should be.
Supplements: What are the extras?
John McNaughton provides a director’s perspective in his audio commentary track, as he talks about the movie and what he wanted to accomplish. He stresses that the movie was designed to not glorify violence, quite the opposite. He also talks about his cast, Michael Rooker in specific and relays some general stories from the production process. A pair of documentaries are up next, one of which deals with the production of the film, while the other focuses on the real life events that inspired the movie. The look at real life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas adds immense perspective to the movie itself, so it is an excellent inclusion. The behind the scenes look at the film is also good, as the cast and crew talk about their experiences. This disc also includes some storyboards, deleted scenes, and the film’s theatrical trailer.