Jack (Henry Rollins) is a human blood-drinking, flesh-eating immortal. Actually, he’s a very specific immortal, but that’s neither here nor there. He has gone cold turkey on the murders that generally come with this sort of thing outside of YA novels and survives on a diet of small amounts of black market blood he buys from one of those body part hoking interns (Booboo Stewart) you find in every movie hospital. That diet isn’t too good for Jack’s personality though, and he spends his life sleeping, sleeping, sleeping, playing bingo, sleeping, keeping any given conversation ambiguously monosyllabic and ordering “hot tea” (one shudders to think what he’d get if he only said “tea”) in a local diner. Waitress Cara (Kate Greenhouse) is the closest Jack gets to actual human contact, and for reasons only known to her, she seems to have taken a bit of a shine to him.
Things will change for Jack when Andrea (Jordan Todosey), the daughter he
didn’t know about, appears in his life, and he gets involved in his intern blood
dealer’s trouble with some low level gangsters.
Tonally, Jason Krawczyk’s He Never Died is as far away from most
other contemporary horror comedies as possible. There’s nothing zany here, and
the film’s not interested in being parodic or self-consciously weird either.
Instead, the humour here is bone dry, driven by Jack’s skewed attempts at
pretending to be a normal human being, his peculiar interactions, and the quiet
joy it brings to watch Henry Rollins play bingo.
Despite quite a body count – a part of which is held elegantly off-screen
because once the audience has seen what Jack can do, it doesn’t need to be shown
again and again which makes an interesting comparison to something like the much
more mainstream Denzel Washington Equalizer that has certain obvious
plot parallels – I’d describe Krawczyk’s film as low key, approaching a
surprisingly far-reaching mythology as matter-of-factly as it does its view of
big city life, and never seeming afraid to just let things stand without
detailed explanation and let the audience think about them a bit.
There’s a fine bit of irony going on here, too, with Jack being the more
bizarrely literal-minded and socially awkward the less he’s involved in drinking
blood, eating flesh and making a bloody mess. He’s more functional as an actual
human being when he’s acting like a monster, which I find rather difficult not
to read as a rather poignant choice of the film’s writer/director.
Rollins, not exactly the picture of variety when working as an actor (so just
like when he’s working as a musician), is pretty much perfect here, breathing
life into Jack’s awkwardness and weirdness and nailing his more human phases
too. That Rollins, even in his mid-50s, can still embody physical threat when
necessary is no surprise at all, of course.