She Never Died is a tangential sequel to 2015’s Henry Rollins-lead He Never Died, which follows Rollins’ Jack as he shuffles through his immortal life with deadpan delivery and a never ending stream of trouble. More spinoff than sequel, She Never Died takes the story of a cannibalistic immortal and twists in a decidedly feminist edge.
Written by Jason Krawczyk (He Never Died) and directed by Audrey Cummings (Tormented aka Berkshire County), She Never Died follows Lacey (Olunike Adeliyi, Saw 3D: The Final Chapter), a socially detached loner with a vigilante hobby that provides her with the human flesh she needs for sustenance. When one of her food runs catches the attention of a dark web streaming site, Lacey becomes tangled up in a world of underground crime that threatens to destroy her.
As a side effect of one of her vigilante justice escapades, Lacey develops a friendship with Suzzie (Kiana Madeira, Level 16), an excitable but jaded sex worker. With her chatty intrusions, Suzzie has all the potential to be an insufferable character, but Madeira is so utterly charming that you’re immediately won over. Even after a traumatic experience, she’s full of light.
Adeliyi as Lacey is rigid and disinterested, but with flashes of intensity that remind you what the character is capable of. It’s a performance that could easily be misinterpreted as wooden, however, the more time we spend with the character, the more it clicks in. It is perhaps unfair to compare her performance with Rollins’ in He Never Died, but it’s difficult not to draw connections when the characters are so matched in their persona.
With its change in pronouns, She Never Died brings a female focus to the world of the immortal biblical cannibal. We don’t learn what Lacey’s role is until the very end of the film, but there are limited options from the source material, so you can probably hazard a good guess. That said, not much time is spent on the lore and laws of the character; She Never Died already assumes you’ve seen the first film. While this is fine for anyone who has, those that haven’t might find the loose ends to be a tad confusing.
She Never Died has some strong female characters at its core, each with their own complexities. Both of our leads are women of color with troubled histories. When we first meet Lacey she is living on the streets. Unlike Jack, she does not have millennia of white male privilege to keep her comfortable. Her newfound friend Suzzie is vibrant, confident, and personable, providing a positive representation of a sex worker. She has depth and personality; she’s eager to get involved, though she is thoroughly independent. And to go against the trope that’s so common in horror films, she isn’t killed or otherwise punished in a gruesome way.
The “big bad” of the film is a curious character herself. Meredith (Michelle Nolden, RED) runs a human trafficking ring where she shuttles girls off to the highest bidder. It’s a bold operation, and one that’s not typically headed by women. There’s something about it that feels like a betrayal — that calculated destruction of female solidarity. It’s an effective way to establish her as a horrible person and a deeply unethical threat.
She Never Died balances themes of judgement and justice, solidarity and independence. Its grander themes of immortality and consequence aren’t fully explored, which is a shame because there are some great opportunities that come with such an open premise. This seems to fall more on the script than the direction, but again, if you have seen the first film it grants a bit more context.
As a straight film (without the context of a sequel), She Never Died brings a few things to the table. It has an interesting story, some great visuals and tense moments, and fun gore to satisfy the horror hounds. But the plot details on their own — without the proper context — could easily confuse viewers. To get the most out of the film, you really should watch both parts. Think of She Never Died as a companion piece; it can stand on its own, but it’s part of a whole.
Everyone has their demons, but for She Never Died, the devil is in the details.
She Never Died will have its U.S. Premiere at ScreamFest (Hollywood, Los Angeles) on October 10.