Oh boy, the world was very different back in 1990. Some of the things I talk about here will sound crazy to younger readers who know how to get any film ever released within seconds in 2022. In 1990? Not so much. I began reading about Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer in Fangoria and looked forward to catching it when it came over to the UK. Except it didn’t. James Ferman and his BBFC cronies decided that it was just too dangerous to get a home release.
Oddly, the problem with Henry was not the usual excuses of violence and darkness, blah blah, no this time the critics were offended by an important scene in the film where the baddies are watching their crimes back on the TV. Now, from a critical point of view, the film is making a statement here, saying that us watching Henry puts us in the voyeur category, but obviously this was lost on Ferman and the film was refused a release. So, the 1990 version of illegal downloading was replying to ads in the back of Samhain with a SAE (alright, grandpa!) and then you would receive a list of VHS bootlegs, everything Ferman told us we could not watch. This is how I first saw Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer, a once dirty word that now ranks as an all time serial killer classic.
The story is dark and powerful and follows Henry, freshly released from prison who meets up with an ex con and becomes a pest exterminator. in more ways than one. Yes, in his down time, Henry is a serial killer, the most chilling kind, one with no particular reason for his killing and no pattern. So far, so classic villain, but then Otis, the accomplice brings his sister around and Henry, the coldest of the cold begins to feel some warmth. Seeing Henry defend Becky and look after her becomes heartwarming, which given what you have previously seen is very odd and makes you question the entire spectrum of heroes and villains. This is made powerful by Michael Rooker’s main performance, sure in 2022 he is that guy from Guardians and The Walking Dead but here in Henry he was a faceless actor, making it all the more terrifying. The film is directed brilliantly by John McNaughton, aping grainy 70’s classics such as Dirty Harry and The French Connection and you might feel the need to shower after watching it, but that is a massive compliment as it puts it in the same category as A Serbian Film and Last House On The Left. A stunning work that I have had on illegal VHS, official VHS, DVD and now Arrow Video’s stunning 4K restoration, that comes with two books and more extras than you can shake a stick at.
“Plug it in”