The “sister sequel” to He Never Died (2015), Audrey Cummings’ She Never Died is a violent yet nicely laidback horror-thriller that ends with a smile.
I didn’t know what to expect from a “gender-switching sequel” to Jason Krawczyk’s He Never Died, but I am pleased to declare that She Never Died is not simply a retelling of the same story with genders reversed. It features Lacey (Oluniké Adeliyi), a similar “immortal” to Henry Rollins’ Jack, in a story all of her own, but in a world they both share: it shows us that Jack’s world and his story are bigger than just him.
Lacey’s story is not one of estranged offspring, but film noir-style renegade cops vs. underworld, with equally film noir-style dry humour and half-empty diner. Like Jack in He Never Died, Lacey doesn’t strictly like having to eat people, and so directs that habit to, you know, bad guys, Dexter-style. What happens in the early part of this film is almost inevitable then: she captures the interest of both a police detective and a grateful young woman who had been through a lot at the hands of someone she kills. Therein lies the story, and it’s a simple one yet entertaining.
Adeliyi is an excellent choice for this role, turning Lacey into a majestic yet humble character who could have been right at home in American Gods, where I first saw her. Like Rollins’ Jack, she is “socially awkward” (is that a euphemism for autistic, or just voluntarily sheltered?) and keeps to herself a lot of the time; but we get to see a lot more of what happens when her instincts are aroused than we did Jack’s.
Of the other main characters, there are essentially two baddies and two goodies; though these are very much shades of dark grey, rather than clear black and white, in proper pulp fiction tradition. The baddies are super-bad, though (into trafficking and snuff), a brother-and-sister pair like in Rampage. The lighter-grey two are a little more well-rounded: Peter MacNeill plays Godfrey, the detective who shares a common target with Lacey on her vigilante days; and Kiana Madeira plays Suzzie, who Lacey frees, and who helps Lacey in return. They have little choice but to accept Lacey’s nature – after a little questioning, of course – and neither has much to lose in doing so.
Jason Krawczyk, who wrote and directed He Never Died, wrote this new film; and thus there is a continuity of style to some degree between the two films. His is – as far as I can tell – the only name in common between the two, so it’s actually pretty impressive how well this works as a follow-up in the same world. The production is a little more polished, and Cummings’ direction brings the characters and the writing to life with style.
She Never Died can be enjoyed perfectly well in its own right, or as a “sister sequel” to the earlier film. And just as John Wick 2 showed us, a mythos can be broader than it first seems. I can’t help wondering if there might be a film called They Never Died sometime in the near future.