It says a lot about the long-lasting power of director John McNaughton’s 1986 film Henry: Portrait of the Serial Killer that many people still most associate actor Michael Rooker with the movie’s titular murderer, despite a list of highly memorably subsequent roles in The Walking Dead, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Slither, among others.
“I that think art, if it’s done well, is always going to feel timeless,” says Rooker, whose Henry costars include Tracy Arnold and the late Tom Towles. “Henry was crafted and executed in such a simple, realistic way: we required no special effects, no CGI, so there’s very little that could make this film feel dated. Then there are all the mighty performances: not only from the actors but from John McNaughton as well. I’m not one to speak in a hokey sort of way about filmmaking, and craft, but there was an unspoken connection between everyone on set. We all showed up to perform our roles and everything just clicked. No one can explain how that happens, but there was some sort of alchemy there — the way those energies came together and played off each other — that’s what makes the movie great. And it’s exactly that unnamable factor that gives the film it’s lasting appeal — that’s also why it remains scary as hell after all these years.”
To mark the film’s 30th anniversary, Henry is once again stalking the big screen this month in the form of a 4K restoration presented by Dark Sky Films. Director McNaughton will attend the new version’s New York premiere at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema on Friday, and will also be on hand to present his twisted creation at the Laemmle NoHo in Los Angeles on Oct. 28.
But what other horror movie does Rooker think readers should watch this Halloween? The answer is George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, which, coincidentally, has also just been digitally restored.
“Night of the Living Dead is my absolute favorite, and why I like it so much is much the same answer as why I think Henry is still so great!” says Rooker. “It’s just done in the simplest format possible, which makes it feel totally realistic. I love that it’s shot in black-and-white, which adds to the grit and to the mise-en-scene — and it has such a grim, tragic ending! Same with Henry — well, Henry has a tragic ending for everyone except Henry.”
The new version of Night of the Living Dead will premiere at New York’s Museum of Modern Art on Nov. 5. Tickets for that event go on sale Saturday.
A full list of cinemas screening the 4K restoration of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer can be found at the official Dark Sky Films website.