HENRY-PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER DVD REVIEW by Brian Roper

Posted: January 21, 2007 in 2006 NEW Reviews

 DVD Review by Brian Roper

 henry1.jpg

This made-in-Chicago feature slipped by a lot of people when it was first released. The MPAA slapped an X rating on it not because of any particular scene but “because of the films attitude” (their words) Due to this HENRY received a very limited release theatrically. However the home video market saved it from becoming a lost film and it received (deserved) cult status. There’s even a reference to it in John Waters SERIAL MOM. Star Michael Rooker went on to work in mainstream films like JFK , TOMBSTONE and MISSISIPPI BURNING as well as several independent films.  Saw him the other day with a shaved head in MALLRATS and couldn’t help but notice his resemblance to Michael Chiklis of THE SHIELD.   Co-star Tom Towles continues to work to this day as well (he does an excellent Danny DeVito impression for the entire length of the NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD re-make)

The first DVD release of HENRY had out-of-synch audio and video making viewing it comparable to watching a 1960’s/70’s-era Jap monster movie. So this re-release was welcome; I usually dread seeing re-releases of DVDs. This is an exception; this movie needed one, and bad. Director John McNaughton offers commentary on a separate track and tells you a lot of behind-the-scenes background and only occasionally wanders away from what you’re seeing onscreen. One thing he tells you I would have never guessed is that the same woman plays not one, not two, but three of Henrys victims. Now THATS low-budget. There is a second disc of even more “behind-the-scenes” info, storyboards, and a documentary about Henry Lee Lucas on which HENRY is very loosely based. And if you’ve ever seen video footage of Henry Lee, you’ll have an even deeper appreciation for the level of artistic liberties they had to take with this film. The real Henry was somewhat of a “dim-bulb” and didn’t offer much material for anyone to work with. The real Otis Toole was even more so.

To be honest I haven’t actually watched any of the second disc; I bought this just because I wanted a decent copy and was so happy to see a “working” copy of HENRY finally on the shelves at long last.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, HENRY is one of those films like the EXORCIST or JAWS that shocks you the first time you see it. On repeated viewings however, you’ll laugh at your own initial reactions to it. There is a lot of humor to offset some of the more shocking and offensive scenes (there is a home-invasion scene that has lost absolutely NONE of its impact after 17 years) that flew right over the heads of most mainstream critics when HENRY was first released. It works pretty much on the same level of the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE in that there is as much suggested as actually shown onscreen. Hollywood ground out a lot of bloodier (and even more sadistic) movies than this last year, some of whose trailers I found just as offensive as anything shown in HENRY.

Aside from the even-then older cars and some of the more dated video equipment shown (Henry and Otis videotape some of their killings, a premise that’s been played to death in countless other movies since) few 1990 films have aged this well. This remains very much intense viewing. As if the title wouldn’t tip you off, this is not recommended for family viewing or for those who are easily offended. Many scenes in this movie remain as brutal as they were 17 years ago; HENRY has lost little, if any effect.

Another cool re-release feature is the reversable cover on the box; the backside has the original Joe Coleman artwork which like most of Colemans work the closer you examine it the more you’ll wished you hadn’t bothered.

File23 recommended.

BR

JAN 2007

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