Every now and then, we’re treated with a sequel that’s just as great as its predecessor. It doesn’t happen often, mind you; most sequels are either attempts to catch lightning in a bottle (see: The Hangover II) or dishonest cash grabs (see: The Hangover III).
But every once in a while, when the moon is fat and bright in the sky and a chicken somewhere in India coughs up a bloody mess that looks suspiciously like Christ’s face, we see great movies get the sequel we know they deserve.
She Never Died, directed by Audrey Cummings, is a masterful follow up to the 2015 character-study-slash-monster-movie starring Henry Rollins. It’s got all the things that made He Never Died so great: it’s remarkable, it’s dark-humored, gross, it’s unique…and this time around, it’s relentlessly fast-paced and somehow even more compelling from start to finish.
Cummings’ film isn’t quite a continuation of He Never Died, but more of a companion piece within the same universe. This time around, we follow a flesh-eating woman named Lacey (Olunike Adeliyi, who seems to limit her feasting to those who truly deserve it and also has a familiar pair of scars on her back. During one of her hunting trips, Lacey stumbles upon a group of sickos creating “Red Room” content to stream on the dark web, and her indestructible nature is caught on film and noticed by hundreds of viewers who’d pay big bucks to watch her be tortured.
Unlike Rollins’ character in the first film, Lacey is only aloof some of the time. Although “friendship” may be a stretch, she finds an admirer in Suzie (Kiana Madeira), a woman she rescues from becoming the subject of a Red Room video. She also gains the attention of a semi-retired detective named Godfrey (Peter MacNeill), who uses her talents to take down a notorious murderer he’s been hunting for quite a while.
When watching a movie as enjoyable as She Never Died, I try not to bother myself with reading too deeply into any sort of underlying messages. After all, I didn’t need much subtext to enjoy movies like Crank or John Wick, and this movie seems to be in the same arena of stylized violence and pitch black humor. However, I’d be doing She Never Died a great disservice by pretending it’s just another brilliant actions movie with nothing much to say.
A theme I noticed pretty early on was the fight against misogyny and support between women who’ve been victimized. The movie begins with a woman walking home alone at night, and she’s almost immediately followed by a man with nefarious intentions. The scene serves mostly as a conduit for introducing Lacey in all her gory glory, but it’s also a piece of a larger picture being painted from scene to scene. The men in this movie, with the exception of Godfrey and a homeless friend of Lacey, aren’t very nice dudes. Some of them are outright dismissive toward women, others are piggish sadists who treat mutilation as a form of art. Not all of the Red Room victims in this movie are women, but the way the topic is presented seems to infer that violence towards women is somehow more valuable to these consumers of live torture. One man even tells Suzie he recognizes her from an asphyxiation video she starred in, and although he discusses her suffering as if it were a performance, we can see the pain in Suzie’s expression.
Interestingly, the antagonist who seems to run the underground Red Room service is a woman named Meredith (Michelle Nolden), sibling to the lead “artist” creating live torture content. But unlike the other women in the movie, Meredith seems to be someone who’s never suffered, starved, or been made to feel unsafe at any moment in her life. She’s obviously from a different world than Lacey and Suzie, not the type of person who’d ever even attempt to understand their personal struggles…she could possibly be a stand-in for women in the real world who dismiss harsh realities because “It’s never happened to me.”
Again, I try not to put a movie’s message ahead of its entertainment value, but She Never Died at least gave me something to think about once the credits rolled.
You can definitely watch She Never Died without having seen He Never Died (although I urge you to check out the latter, because it’s fucking awesome and it stars Henry Goddamn Rollins…need I say more?) This movie builds on the world from the first film, but the entrance into the story isn’t so narrow that only a niche group can fit through; this is a movie anyone can enjoy, provided they’re interested in stylized violence and dark humor surrounding rough topics.
The acting is strong, the story is engaging, and the gore effects are everything a monster movie fan could want. Come for the fun story, stay for the angelic wrath!
I give this movie: 8/10 Oatmeal Bowls.
A71 Entertainment will distribute She Never Died in Canada. V71 Entertainment is selling the International Rights in partnership with IndustryWorks Studios. The United States rights are represented by XYZ Films.