Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 39 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Bloody Violence and Language throughout
Directed by: Jason Krawczyk
Written by: Jason Krawczyk
Starring: Henry Rollins, Booboo Stewart, Steven Ogg, Jordan Todosey, Kate Greenhouse & James Cade
For those who aren’t seeing STAR WARS this weekend, you should know that there’s a new movie available on video-on-demand that features Henry Rollins as an immortal cannibal. This horror-comedy is titled HE NEVER DIED and originally popped onto my radar after some positive festival buzz as well as a kick-ass trailer. Unfortunately, the film sits right next to Adam Green’s DIGGING UP THE MARROW from earlier this year as a rather mediocre film with a great premise. That’s a shame because there are genuinely good qualities in HE NEVER DIED, but they nearly drown in an intentionally vague screenplay that doesn’t do enough with its interesting ideas and raises far more questions than it answers.
Jack is a bored, depressed guy who doesn’t necessarily like people. His daily routine consists of eating at a local diner (where the waitress hits on him) and occasionally playing bingo (because old people don’t bother him). Oh, he also purchases blood from a young hospital worker…because Jack has some vampire tendencies. These mainly consist of his hunger for the red stuff, becoming a hardened killing machine when confronted by danger, and being generally annoyed at his inability to die. Despite being an immortal bad-ass, Jack is more than content with lying around in his apartment during most hours of the day. That changes when he gets caught in an escalating feud with a local gang and his daughter is kidnapped. You can probably guess where the story heads from there.
Somehow, the plot of HE NEVER DIED manages to get bogged down in details and be extremely vague at the same time. The basic story plays out like your typical crime-revenge flick where a vigilante goes on a violent spree to protect the people he cares about. In this case, the vigilante happens to be Henry Rollins as a bloodthirsty cannibal who can’t die. However, the film also throws in lots of details that are never explained enough for the viewer to fully comprehend or to reasonably assume what’s going on under the surface of this by-the-numbers story. I’m not a guy who needs everything tied up with a bow on top, but this film focuses on stuff involving these characters, their motives, and Jack’s mysterious past and then never really does anything remarkable or special with any of these things. A miniseries follow-up to this film is currently in production and that seems appropriate, because HE NEVER DIED feels like a 30 minute horror-sitcom that’s been stretched out to fill a feature and simply doesn’t have enough material to do so.
As frustrating as the script is, there are aspects that I will praise about this horror-comedy. For one, Henry Rollins is fucking awesome as Jack. He plays the character as an anti-social loner with a lot of baggage, quirky tendencies (the bingo stuff is quite funny), and a total disregard for human life (save for two or three people around him). That last quality comes out in the gory fights that Jack gets into with a handful of the street thugs. The best scene comes from Rollins non-violent interrogation of a goon which ended in the funniest part of the whole movie for me. Speaking of which, the sense of humor is very hit-or-miss. When it hits, the film can be enjoyed as an ambitious horror-comedy in a year that’s been full of quality horror-comedies. That being said, there are also a few lame jokes as well. This only lends to the pure apathy that I felt towards the movie as the end credits began to roll.
Like I said earlier, HE NEVER DIED functions less as a movie and more as an introduction to the eventual miniseries that will feature more of Jack’s adventures. I think that’s the biggest problem with this film as it felt like I was waiting for answers that never came. Henry Rollins and some of the funnier scenes made the movie enjoyable in spots, but the tired and underwhelming screenplay (capped off by a hugely anti-climactic ending) make for a strictly middle-of-the-road experience. This isn’t a bad movie to watch if you happen to be awake at 2 a.m. and it’s playing on cable or Netflix. I can’t see any other scenario where I would recommend going out of your way to see it.