Though I’ve never seen He Never Died, its mention as a horror-comedy, one with Henry Rollins center stage, floats around the ether. Not allowing its legacy to remain a passing glimmer of the time “Rollins lead a fantasy horror-comedy,” She Never Died stands as the sequel/ spin-off, the decidedly not comedic installment in the canon that boasts a feminine spin.
Director, Audrey Cummings (Darken) brought something new to Jason Krawczyk’s (writer/ director of He Never Died and writer of She Never Died) script; femininity. In this installment, Lacey is the immortal focus of the film, and her violent delights beget a different connotation based in feminine revenge.
Olunike Adeliyi stars as Lacey, an assumed immortal being stalking villains in the night to kill them, and consume them. When a wary cop, Godfrey (Peter MacNeill) stumbles across her abilities and desire to chase the same evildoers, he recruits her; he’ll assist her in killing “the man with the rings,” and a few others, so she can be fed, protected, and given modest lodgings. Lacey accepts and sets off on the same mission as always, find and take down the man with the rings, this time adding to her plate a clumsy assassin style list of gigs handed from Godfrey, with the mutual mission of tearing apart a sibling duo crime ring that deals in human trafficking and snuff films. On one such mission, Lacey stumbles across and rescues a captor, Suzzie (Kiana Madeira), an eager sidekick seeking the protection and companionship Lacey appears to offer. The reluctant Lacey takes Suzzie on and comes to realize that while her friends make her vulnerable, Lacey is ultimately stronger with support.
On the surface, this movie is badass. Adeliyi’s deadpan delivery paired with her incredible ass-kicking are incredibly fun and worthy of cheers. Michelle Nolden and Noah Dalton Danby make for excellent villains that are both cool and fun to watch while carrying out horrifically repugnant acts. The action is well-shot and balances a level of blood, gore, and teeth-rattling hits you want to see when a fallible, but immortal hero is plowing through brick wall villains. Madeira is hilarious and warm, and her performance forces you to like her, feel for her, and be happy she is there for both comic relief and backup.
Beneath that, there is more to the story of a pair of women beating down human traffickers. There’s an intention to the use of sexual and ultra-violence in that, it’s referred to for the sake of story, but never once glamourized or gratuitously displayed. The emotional scars all over Suzzie’s face are enough to drive home the point, and the movie never forces us to see hands laid on her. The suggestions of women’s revenge are not incidental. The opening scene, that introduces us to Lacey’s grit, has her devour a would-be rapist after he follows a girl into an alley. Though never exactly clear her beef with the man with the rings (Danby), Lacey is not just killing for food, she has specific vendettas against the violent.
I could watch Suzzie and Lacey interact all day. Polar opposites, both are strong women burying dark histories beneath themselves. Both don’t appear to have a ton of interaction with others or a backlog of close friendships, such that Suzzie has to “friend flirt” her way into sleeping on Lacey’s couch. Their buddy-cop dynamic is a delight and their ultimate mutual care, knowing they bring both protection and liability to each other, is beautiful, and serves to have a humanizing effect on Lacey, like Dr. Manhattan learning to care for the human race.
Having not been familiar with the canon, I felt the restrained hints at the fantasy elements to be welcome. A gory nod to wings and mention of the apocalypse were all I needed to get the gist, and to avoid the movie becoming hokey. The spin of Lacey eating fingers because they’re “easy to carry” was a lot more welcome than any shot of glowing wings and glistening clouds would have been.
I really liked this movie as a popcorn flick about a baddie-killing wolverine with an icy heart that need be melted by powerful female friendship, and I liked it even more for letting it be a female-focused revenge flick that never subjected us to gratuitous violence.