Back in 2015, punk rock icon Henry Rollins turned his eyes to acting in He Never Died, a story about an immortal cannibalistic loner that tries to stay out of trouble to repress his urges, obviously to little success. And now in the great 2010’s tradition of gender-swapped sequels and reboots, writer/director Jason Krawczyk has handed over the directing reigns to Audrey Cummings for the ingeniously titled She Never Died.
In her sequel, Audrey Cummings surprisingly manages to create something more endearing, funny and socially conscious that its predecessor. By taking the foundations laid by Krawczyk (who also penned this script too) and for once actually erasing the elements that didn’t work (namely the biblical tie-in for Henry Rollins’ character that weighed the film down with grand ideas), this gender-swap actually has a lot to say about violence and those who perpetuate it.
One of these perpetrators is Lacey (Olunike Adeliyi), one might say she’s an anti-heroine, others might say she’s an immortal cannibal. In her desperate need to feed she has decided to live her life based around some strong moral principles: only eat the worst, most vile people she can find. Rapists, murderers, paedophiles – you name it, she’ll eat it. Its almost as if Lacey’s ‘curse’ is being used for good; she is helping to cleanse the world.
It is during one such dining-out experience that Lacey realises she is being followed by a detective, Godfrey (Peter MacNeill), who knows what she is and instead of killing her, enlists her to help on a case uncovering a human trafficking ring. Terrance (Noah Dalton Danby) is the leader of this ring with a fetish for strangulation, subjecting his prisoners to multiple instances of abuse. It is early on that Lacey saves a girl named Suzzie (Kiana Madeira) from a similar fate. Suzzie’s introduction marks a turning point for Lacey’s downtrodden view of herself, Suzzie sees that she is able to reclaim the power that men take from women on a daily basis, that she is in control, she is strong and she is fearless – she will also bite all your fingers off and freeze them for snacks later.
Lacey’s interest in collecting finger-based snacks is part of her agreement to work with Godfrey, living on the streets she has nowhere to store them all safely, all she wants is a fridge. This dark humour is seeped throughout Cummings’ film, largely coming from Adeliyi’s performance that merges a level of toddler-like curiosity with a brutal need to survive. It also cannot be ignored that as a dark-skinned black woman Adeliyi’s presence on screen is a much-needed win for representation in the horror genre. Adeliyi plays Lacey as blunt with a piercing stare and expresses only layman’s terms of understanding the mortal world –“Yeah I killed that guy. I wanted to eat him”− it brings a much needed level of humour to an otherwise pretty disturbing film, and also greatly assists with preventing She Never Died from being weighed down by its own morals.
With almost no knowledge of the previous film needed to engage with Lacey’s story, She Never Died works well as a stand-alone film, but also expands on the series’ canon and the immortals’ ways of engaging with the mortal world. Audrey Cummings takes the approach to tackle real-world issues, especially ones that affect women; rape, sex trafficking and even in Lacey’s case, homelessness. This distinct feminine rage and idea of reclaiming your power (even if it is by eating men’s limbs) is a guttural punch wrapped up in an entertaining gory cannibal movie; She Never Died is certainly a worthy opponent to its predecessor.
by Chloe Leeson
Chloe Leeson is the founder of SQ. She hails from the north of England (the proper north that people think is actually Scotland but isn’t). Her life source is Harmony Korine’s 90s Letterman interviews and Ezra Miller’s jawline. She is a costume designer for hire who spends far too much time watching bad horror movies. Her favourite films are Into The Wild, Lords of Dogtown, Stand by Me and Pan’s Labyrinth. She rants about cinema screenings @kawaiigoff and logs them on letterboxd here
Categories: Reviews, Women Film-makers
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