SHE NEVER DIED (2019)
Directed by Audrey Cummings
A detective and a homeless woman form an unexpected partnership in a bid to take down a local crime gang led and their nefarious activities.
After adoring the deadpan performance of Henry Rollins in HE NEVER DIED, which was one of my festival highlights at Grimmfest 2015, I was excited to see that this year’s festival would be screening a sequel, but this time with a woman at the helm, both a main character and in the directing chair. What could they possibly do with this story and would it be a rehash of the first film with a woman in the lead role instead or would it be something more?
From the opening scenes of the thrilling SHE NEVER DIED, directed by Audrey Cummings, you can tell that this sequel isn’t pulling any punches. It also knows that you might have seen the first film and does away with any sort of slow reveal and assaults you with the bloody truth right from the start; this woman means business. Reports of bodies being found with their fingers missing play on the radio whilst posters line the streets and the wall of the police station with images of missing women. Lacey, who we see kipping under a sleeping blanket down an alleyway, is involved in some fashion but could she be the one to help find the missing girls in a city that seems to have forgotten or, even worse, doesn’t care about the mass disappearance of females?
Like one half of a whole, SHE NEVER DIED is the perfect compliment piece to first movie HE NEVER DIED (now on referred to as HND for ease) but it also stands proud as its own movie. Though fans of HND will have a feel for where the film is headed, there’s a respectable individuality to the movie that will thrill those familiar with the concept and those who never saw HND anyway. And for the fans, there’s some lovely little nods to the certain ‘tastes’ of Henry Rollins’ character Jack and you can see where elements cross over. Though each film’s story seems to be leading their own path, the culmination of SHE NEVER DIED hints at a connection between the two developing as part of a larger story arch.
SHE NEVER DIED stands loud and proud on its own two feet. With a powerful entity in the form of Lacey, sharing similar awkward tendencies and a deadpan delivery to Rollins, it’s hard to look away from the screen, even when eyes are being gouged and hearts are being ripped out. Who is Lacey and what is her purpose? That’s something weary police detective Godfrey, who’s desperately trying to solve a suspected human trafficking case, hopes to find out as they appear to be chasing the same person; the man wearing rings, known as Terrance. Discovering her taste for death and bone marrow, Lacey becomes an ally for Godfrey who spies an opportunity to rid the city of the thugs and criminals by satiating Lacey’s hunger.
SHE NEVER DIED likes to keep you on the edge of your seat with the quiet tranquillity of Lacey’s personality transformed when she unleashes her beast mode. Able to take a baseball bat to the head on numerous occasions, Lacey maybe superhuman in many ways but still displays the wounds of her assault, which are beautifully done by the FX team, which makes her revenge even sweeter. The idea to put females first and foremost in this film whilst also highlighting how throw away women can be, with many of the criminal’s victims being women, displays two sides of the coin. On one side you’ve got the typical outlay of a film where the female species only serves to be fodder, with even the film’s city more bothered about bodies missing fingers than the whereabouts of all the missing women in the movie. The flip side of that, we see strength and power through a variety of female characters, some of who fight the good fight whilst others are motivated by malevolent greed. It really feels as though there’s a point being put across about female roles in general and this film likes to show that women are just as capable as men in every aspect.
The performances in SHE NEVER DIED are worth noting, particularly actress Olunike Adeliyi who plays Lacey. She can work both the strong, silent type but can also come alive through scenes where more dialogue is necessary. Olunike’s brilliant at displaying Lacey’s awkwardness, like she’s just a kid who’s walked into a room she shouldn’t be in, but also reveals a powerful, commanding presence that forces you to sit up straight and observe when faced with adversity. Her awkward interactions with allies Peter MacNeill’s Godfrey and the spritely Suzzie (Kiana Madeira) will raise a smile amongst viewers too, which tends to bring the comic relief to the forefront. The character of Suzzie is particularly humorous due to her bouncy, in-your-face demeanour, a bit like an excitable puppy; a stark contrast to the personality of Lacey. This tends to put a rosier tint on the carnage which ensues rather than being cold and calculated.
With the film once again penned by Jason Krawczyk, it feels like SHE NEVER DIED could indeed be setting up a third film; a trilogy, if you will. If these two films are anything to go by, then sign me up!