She Never Died is not really a sequel to 2015’s He Never Died. Think of it as a story that could exist in that same universe that plays by the same rules.
Unaware of the lack of connection though, I prepared myself for She Never Died by streaming the predecessor on Netflix. The film had always interested me, and I put a pin in it ever since former Wylie Writes critic Trevor Jeffery called it “a masterpiece of mixed genres” and named it the best movie of 2015. It didn’t bowl me over as it did with Trevor. In fact, the scattershot nature of He Never Died made it difficult to completely engage with Jack, the enigmatic superhuman played with gusto by Henry Rollins. But, there are some exciting fights in He Never Died, good deadpan comedy, as well as some gnarly gore. The film left me lukewarm, but I admired the ambition of writer/director Jason Krawczyk.
Krawczyk returns to She Never Died as a screenwriter, handing over the directorial baton to Audrey Cummings. Cummings is an underrated filmmaker. She elevated the home invasion formula in her feature debut Berkshire County, and she exercised some unique world-building with Darken. In theory, she seems like a natural fit to progress the potential of this franchise but, unfortunately, she doesn’t get very far.
Oluniké Adeliyi plays Lacey, a homeless outcast who shares the same personality traits as Rollins’ Jack – she’s a fighting machine, she can regenerate her health, she loves to sleep, and she has a taste for human flesh. Just as the plot did in He Never Died, the story pieces itself around Lacey until she becomes a key role. She’s chosen by a local police officer (Peter MacNeill) to help solve ongoing mysteries around missing people. Once a crime ring is identified, Lacey becomes a threat for the violent villains involved.
Cummings does a good job grounding the film in a comprehensible reality, which helps detail Adeliyi’s character and the unhinged world around her – crucial details that were missing from Krawczyk’s filmmaking the first time around. However, Krawczyk compensated by creating sardonic humour and action that gave the film an edge – the type of personality that Cummings’ film is absent of. But, while these may not read as glowing words, this still serves as a testament to Cummings as a director and Krawczyk as a screenwriter. They were just mismatched for each other.
What ends up happening is, once strengths cancel out flaws and vice versa, She Never Died ends up averaging out to be as effective as He Never Died. This’ll be good news for someone like Trevor Jeffery who is thirsty for more of the “same stuff”, but a slight whimper for someone like me who had higher hopes for this follow-up.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie