"I take orders from the Octoboss."

He Never Died

In HE NEVER DIED (2015), Henry Rollins (JOHNNY MNEMONIC) plays Jack, which is the guy mentioned in the title, the one who hasn’t experienced death so far. He’s an immortal who just lives a boring life in a dingy apartment, mostly sleeping, sometimes playing Bingo, paying his rent in cash from a box of hundreds he has under the bed. Cara (Kate Greenhouse, TERMINAL RUSH), a waitress at the diner he goes to every day, seems to like him, but I’m not sure why. He shows little emotion or enthusiasm and seems uninterested in understanding normal human social interactions.

This is the story of the time a young woman (Jordan Todosey, THE PACIFIER, Degrassi: The Next Generation) knocks on his door and runs off and then he gets a call from a long-ago ex who he hates who says that was his daughter and can he please find her and make sure she doesn’t drive home drunk, because that’s what she does. Around this same time he’s also getting threats from some gangsters for reasons he doesn’t understand, or seem that interested in understanding.

So it turns into a story about this gruff, seemingly heartless weirdo accidentally forming a bond with his young misfit daughter – a common format, I know, but one I’m always a sucker for. And then the gangsters notice there’s this person in his life, so the two things become intertwined.

I love the dialogue in this movie. Jack is always saying funny things but he’s completely deadpan because they’re not actually witty comebacks. He just hasn’t learned how to socialize. Like
when he answers the door to some thugs trying to intimidate him, he just says “Hi.” And he’s not trying to be a smartass, he’s just saying the greeting he knows you’re supposed to say.

There are so many good exchanges. “So, what happened to your hand anyway?”
“Uh… (considers whether to lie, decides not to) someone shot me earlier today.”
“Seriously? Someone shot you? With a gun?”
“That’s how you get shot.”
“I actually don’t know.”

Or when he has to meet this kid Jeremy (Booboo Stewart, PIT FIGHTER), who he calls his intern, and finds him asleep in his car. When he wakes him, Jeremy asks “How long have I been asleep?”

“I don’t know how I would know that,” Jack says.

There’s a little bit of subtle commentary to Jeremy’s character. He’s in trouble because he borrowed money from the mob… to pay off his student loans. Not a gambling debt. Or, same thing maybe. I don’t know.

Jack is very casual about everything. Somebody hits him, he just shakes it off and hits back, doesn’t get worked up about it. They bust down his door and he just sits on his bed while they punch him in the face, try to shoot him. That time he was talking about where he got shot, he just put his hand over the gun, let it shoot through him. And he has your traditional action movie run-ins like dudes on a street trying to start something, guys in a bar, protecting a woman from an abusive ex, etc.

He doesn’t seem to concern himself that much with hiding his situation. When Cara asks him what he does he lists off several lifetimes worth of careers as if it’s normal. (I like that one of them is stuntman.)

Overall, historically, he has not been a great guy. He talks of epic massacres. But at some point he started trying to be a nice guy. That’s what the intern is about, he’s a hospital worker who brings him blood. He drinks it like a vampire. There’s a possible homage to CRONOS when he spills a bag of blood and licks it up off the floor. (It’s his own kitchen, though, not a bathroom, so it’s not as pathetic.)

Rollins is a great leading man. Funny, tough and weird, and after eating a little flesh again he changes physically, looking more alert, moving faster, at one point roaring with his mouth so wide it looks like he might dislocate his jaw. Todosey is good too, kind of reminds me of Darlene on Roseanne. Andrea is a mess but a sweetheart, and their relationship is nice.

A small thing that I appreciate: when the gangsters kidnap Andrea, we just hear about it from a threatening phone call, and we see the upsetting marks on her face much later in the movie when he finds her. That’s all we need to see – they don’t waste time or bum us out with the usual scenes where they cut back to her failing to escape and being beaten and the guard that’s trying to get rapey with her or whatever. Thank you.

One of the villains is Steven Ogg, who played Negan’s right hand man Simon on The Walking Dead. Here he’s a suit wearing type of prick instead of a redneck type, but he’s got that same joy for being an asshole. A good bad guy. You like to see Jack go overboard with him.

Thank you Mr. Majestyk and others who recommended HE NEVER DIED as a good action-horror movie in the SILENT RAGE comments. I’ll keep an eye out for future movies from writer-director Jason Krawczyk. According to IMDb they’re in post-production with a sequel or companion piece called SHE NEVER DIED, written by Krawczyk but with a new director, Audrey Cummings. This Bloody Disgusting article makes it sound like it was originally going to be a continuation but was rewritten for a new immortal character so Krawczyk and Rollins can work on an expanded mini-series remake of the first movie. The official synopsis seems like they might not have changed much. This character Lacey’s story happens “after saving her estranged daughter from her criminal past.” Sounds good to me.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018 at 11:09 am and is filed under Action, Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

10 Responses to “He Never Died”

  1. Hey, whaddaya know? I just watched this again last night and I liked it even more than I did last time. I just really love this character. Shit, I pretty much AM this character. I don’t seem to age, I never get hurt, and I am utterly bored with any and all interactions with the human race. Every time Jack just sighs because he knows the social contract (which I believe he fully understands at this point in his life. He gets it—he just hates it) dictates that he must do a certain thing that involves speaking with humans and listening to what they have to say and even (gasp) changing his own plans based on their needs, I just nod in agreement. Jack is me just trying to go to the grocery store and having to affect an air of distracted genius so as not to get roped into smalltalk. Jack is me with my eyes glazing over when relatives ask me how I’m doing. Jack is me coming up with any excuse not to go to that party I got invited to. Jack is me feeling guilty about it, wondering what the hell is wrong with me, thinking I’m some kind of monster because, christ, these are my friends, these people care about me, and I just see them as an annoyance. Jack is me having instincts to reach out but sabotaging myself at the last second every time.

    To me, this is one of the all-time great movies about not just introversion but also depression. About the way you can live long enough to become bored with it all, to see no point in getting up, going out, talking to people, meeting people, doing things, because it’s all so old and tired and uninteresting and what’s it gonna get you anyway? What’s any of it ever done for you? Why fucking bother? So you try less, you want less, you limit yourself to the barest essentials so you will face less disappointment. “I just need food and sleep and my drug of choice and that’s it, that’s all it takes to be happy,” you tell yourself. But you’re not happy. You’ve just limited your chances to encounter sadness. But what you don’t admit to yourself is that the sadness isn’t out there. The sadness is coming from inside the house. And until you get out there and mix it up, make some moves, change your situation, it’s just going to take up more space, until there isn’t any room in your life for you anymore. Depression is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It tells you you need to be alone, and whether you really want to be or not, that’s how you end up. Which is what depression wants. You’re easy pickins that way. Other humans might seem like a major hassle, but they’re all you’ve got. If you can’t be happy, maybe you could help somebody else be. And maybe that’s the next best thing. That’s a boilerplate moral for a story like this, but HE NEVER DIED makes it feel realer and more lived in than 99% of the stories that employ it.

    Anyway, that’s a lot of baggage to tack onto a movie where Henry Rollins ROAD HOUSEs a guy and then eats the neck gristle, but it’s the rare lead character that I relate to on nearly every level. I wish they’d keep making these movies but I guess the siren song of the streaming TV series is too much to resist. Why bother to deliver a 90-minute concentrated dose of awesome when you can spend the same money and stretch it out over 10 watered-down hours? That seems to be the modern thinking.

    I’m pretty sure by the time some of us die, there won’t be movies anymore.

  2. Oh man, I’m glad you finally checked this one out, Vern. It’s such a perfect role for Rollins, utilizing his amazing ability to be both intensely charismatic and utterly off-putting at the same time.

    I also appreciate that it’s a rare movie where the mystery of why He Never Died turns out to be an interesting story. It would have been so easy to just make him a vampire, but the explanation is a little more ballsy than that. And I think it does a great job explaining why he is the way he is:


    I mean, when you’ve outlived multiple civilizations it’s gotta be almost impossible to care about anything. No matter what you do, no matter who you love or what you build, you know you’re going to outlast it. Eventually you just get inured to it, and can’t get too invested in anything. Like Mr. M said, it’s a good metaphor for depression, but with a literal version of the way depression can feel. Even at the end, I think he does the right thing more because he’s trying to be a good guy than because he actually feels it. You do something enough, you’ll eventually find yourself just going through the motions, even if that thing is killing a person or saving a life. These events would be the most intense thing that happened to most people; to him, it’s just a big inconvenience.

    Also bonus spoilers: I like that his revealing the truth does not bring him closer to the nice waitress. It horrifies her, and in fact he has to bribe her to help him at the end. Usually in movies his honesty and slight vulnerability would inaugurate the beginning of a relationship, but not here. He’s still doomed, still probably beyond redemption, still not sure what lesson he’s supposed to learn.


    Yeah, I pretty much love this movie.

  3. Mr M, I just want you to know I appreciate your moving honesty and sincerity, and I enjoy reading your insightful posts here. I hope you have some kind of support network if you need it, and I hope (read: strongly suspect) you are perfectly comfortable in telling me to mind my own fucking business if you don’t.

  4. Thanks, Johnny. Don’t worry, I got a big family and a few good friends that I truly don’t deserve. I’m loved and I know it. Most days that’s enough.

  5. I like the idea. It sounds like Highlander but without the greater destiny or any significance of being The One. I could imagine over time you increasingly lose interest in going through more than the basic of motions over time. I’m already less interested in unnecessary keeping up of appearances socially as it is.

    I mean just in my short time on the planet just in relation to entertainment, I’m barely watching any new films, TV or even reading books because I’m increasingly losing interest in the overall media as a whole, unfortunately.

    (To to counterbalance and to paraphrase someone else’s quote “I’m not going to be on my deathbed saying I wish I’d watched more TV now, am I?)

  6. Jeez. I am Jack’s depression.

    I had never heard of this one. I will have to look it up, it might be the rare movie where my dislike for Rollins comes in handy.

  7. Excellent movie that caught me off guard how goos it was when I first saw it.

  8. Ok pretty good shit here. The acting was slightly spotty at times (the waitress has a few bad line readings, and the bar owner was just terrible, and Rollins can’t quite pull off the rage at the end) but it has some atmosphere and it is a really good character study. Kind of like the HANCOCK of vampire movies. But instead of a stupid ending that ruins most of what has come before, it keeps the wackiness going til the end.

    Thanks for the recommendation!

  9. Finally saw this one today. It was so damned good and like other’s here I totally related to the lead. This one is going down as a favorite.

  10. I recently (finally) got a Netflix account, and this was there, so I watched it.

    I’m a big Rollins fan – too young to have ever seen Black Flag, but I saw the Rollins Band about six times between 1989 and 1997 or so, and have actually interviewed him three, maybe four times. He’s really smart and a lot of fun to talk to. A huge music nerd in the best possible way – never trying to one-up you with knowledge, just wants to geek about about awesome records with like-minded people. I wrote a book about Miles Davis in 2005, and one of the times we talked, he had more questions for me about that than I had for him about his then-current project.

    I thought he was really good in this, and the movie itself was better than I expected. The ending was a little sudden/inconclusive, but everything before that was well done, especially the violence, which was basically just enough and actually avoided some opportunities to go really dark (as Vern mentioned in his review).

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>