Monday, February 15, 2016

He Never Died – review

Director: Jason Krawczyk

Release date: 2015

Contains spoilers

This appeared on my radar and, when I first read about it, I wondered whether it would prove to be a “Vamp or Not?” When I watched it, however, it became clear to me that whilst unorthodox it was most definitely a vampire movie.

The V word is not actually used – in full at least, but there is a question later on regarding whether the main character is a “vam…” the word gets cut off.

It starts in a room. A man, Jack (Henry Rollins, Jugular Wine: A Vampire Odyssey & Suck), sleeps but we can hear what sounds like battle noises – perhaps the dreams that haunt him. There is a knock on the door and he gets up and we see scars on his back. Nothing was done with this. They look like they mark the place where wings previously adorned his back and the movie/DVD posters seem to support this, but they are not mentioned again and we have no other wing indication.

Henry Rollins as jack
At the door is his landlady. He closes the door in her face, gets some money from a trunk and then goes back and pays her. He asks her the time and then the date and day before closing the door in her face again. He then leaves the flat and goes to church (as we’ll discover later, presumably to play bingo in the church hall) and then finds a car with a man in scrubs, Jeremy (Booboo Stewart, the Twilight Saga: Eclipse, the Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn part 1 & the Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn part 2), sat waiting for him. Jack buys something from him and is told that Jeremey’s internship will end in 2 weeks and he’ll have to find a new supplier.

Jordan Todosey as Andrea
Back in the flat there is a knock at the door and a girl, Andrea (Jordan Todosey), is there. She looks at Jack and bolts. He simply closes the door. There is another knock and two wise guys are stood there looking for Jeremey. A brief fight ensues during which Jack is shot in the hand. He goes to a diner and lies about the injury (his hand is bandaged) to the waitress, Cara (Kate Greenhouse), who seems rather interested in him despite his taciturn style. When he gets back to the flat he receives a call from a woman named Gillian and opens with telling her that he’s pretty sure he hates her. She tells him that Andrea is in a bar and likely to DUI if he doesn’t get her, she also tells him that the girl is his daughter.

drinking blood
So we have Andrea trying to breach stoicism to get to know her father, him drinking blood (that is what he bought from Jeremey) and later eating flesh to live and heal (he does eat conventional food as well and is, in those terms, vegetarian). The mob end up kidnapping Andrea and he gets drawn in despite himself. He cannot die, at all. Now some will baulk at the cannibalism involved, suggesting that isn’t vampire, but actually eating flesh is part of some versions of vampire lore and, of course, drinking human blood is just as much a cannibalistic act as eating flesh. When he is asked whether he is a “vam…” fangs are mentioned and he dismisses the motion not knowing why he’d need them.

the unnamed
As things develop we discover that he can see a man (Don Francks, Hemlock Grove & Monster Force) who remains unnamed through the film. Andrea can also see him (what that means is not explored) but most can only see him when they are going to die it appears and, so, it seems he is something akin to death (and yet his presence also seems to indicate that Jack should not kill someone). Jack was originally Cain (he wonders is this curse is due to him having killed Abel but also exclaims that they were barely men) but pronounces it in a non-standard way and denies knowledge of God (due to the suffering he has faced). Cain, of course, was connected to vampirism famously through the Vampire the Masquerade game. At one point he alludes to also having been Vlad Ţepeş. His life in our century revolves around sleep, the diner and bingo.

shot in the head
What made this work for me was Rollins’ portrayal. The taciturn delivery, almost Asperger’s to some degree, was nicely done and played off both the primary female characters, Andrea and Cara, very well. Occasionally Rollins would contort his mouth in almost a monstrous screech and this played in to him falling off the wagon (that might have been alcohol, flesh or both). There aren’t plot holes, per se, but exposition holes and so part of me wanted more background but, to be fair, the film really didn’t need it to work. There are some nicely violent moments, though perhaps other directors would have ratcheted that side up a notch. A neat, different flick. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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