The debut feature from Jason Krawcyzk, He Never Died, sees a curmudgeonly Henry Rollins fighting off mobsters, rescuing damsels in distress, ethically feasting on the blood of the innocent, and playing copious amounts of bingo. Endemic of a new breed of filmmaking destined for success as a probable “straight to Netflix” release, He Never Died is, nonetheless, an enjoyable romp through mid-range B-movie territory with enough freshness and originality in its conceit, and charisma in its star Rollins, to be a little more than just an enjoyable midnight movie.
Following a creature usually restricted to the worst Christian Z-movie morality cinema of the past decade, He Never Died centres on Jack (Henry Rollins), an immortal cannibal who spends his time watching television, playing bingo, eating dinner alone at the local diner and feasting on blood sourced through a local hospital intern. After Jack meets Andrea (Jordan Todosey), a woman claiming to be his daughter, his lonely, isolated daily cycle is thrown into disarray as he is forced to interact with another being. When his daughter is kidnapped by local thugs, Jack is unable to continue his life undisturbed, and begrudgingly sets about tracking down and rescuing his daughter to (often) humorous effect. It’s a breath of fresh air to see this type of movie focus on something other than a zombie, or zombie hybrid, and Krawczyk’s film joyfully toys with this completely religious construct despite conveying no clear religious message. It’s also great to see Rollins in a leading role, having previously demonstrated an aptitude for comedic timing in films like Feast and Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, and he is put to good use here.
The film’s problems (if you can call them that) lie in its low aspirations – it shoots for a few gory scenes, a number of minor laughs, and a single extended joke and scores, but those looking for anything more won’t find it here. Krawczyk’s direction is competent, his script is simple, yet tight, Eric Billman’s cinematography does the job, and James Mark Stewart’s score was passable, but the whole thing just feels lacking somehow, without a single stand-out element beyond Rollins’ (admittedly) one-note performance. There’s nothing like It Follows‘ killer score or The Guest‘s magnificent cinematography, nor is there anything like The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears accomplished aping of external genre tropes to set this apart from the rest of the flock of recent low-budget horror riffs. With that in mind, the film probably runs 10 to 15 minutes long considering its 99 minute runtime is spent largely in pursuit of nothing new. Considering this, it’s a bit unfortunate that it never manages to fully flesh out its villains – it’s passable to say “these are the film’s arseholes” and have the audience enjoy their grisly demise, but true horrific joys are missed when we aren’t shown why we should hate them.
What is impressive, however, is Krawczyk and Rollins full committal to their film’s conceit, which is played with a straight face for the entirety of the film’s runtime. This isn’t an Asylum-tier film, that revels in its self-aware ridiculousness, replacing genuine attempts at humour with fourth-wall breaking stares into the camera, lazy jokes and celebrity cameos, this is a fully formed film, built around a biblical entity. At the end of the day, there’s something really admirable about a film that can do that in our current cinematic climate.
As such, while He Never Dies never moves beyond its simple aspirations, it’s still a worthwhile and entertaining film from Krawczyk that – thanks to the inclusion of Rollins – is destined for minor cult status. For a film that could have easily relied on its drawcard of a lead actor and an unhealthy dose of ‘LOL so wacky’ humour to guarantee some solid VOD sales, it’s good to see Krawczyk actually attempt to make something engaging and worthwhile, even if it lacks anything beyond its surface-level tale of biblical tomfoolery. While this isn’t his masterpiece, if Krawczyk can continue to produce films of this calibre, he’ll find himself a welcome position in the modern independent horror canon.