HE NEVER DIED. A Bloody Horror with a Wink

“He Never Died” provides plenty of unpretentious entertainment and, who knows, may even have the makings of a cult classic.

Maciej Kaczmarski

29 April 2024

he never died

What if a vampire were a grumpy recluse and a vegetarian by choice, restraining his murderous instincts for both his own good and that of humanity?

At first glance, Jack appears to be an ordinary bore. He spends most of his time watching television and sleeping through entire days in his apartment, playing bingo at the local church, visiting the soup kitchen, and strolling around the neighborhood. He doesn’t drink, smoke, eat meat, or even own a car, and as a voluntary loner, he avoids close contact with people. Jack has good reasons for maintaining such a lifestyle: he’s an undead bloodsucker and cannibal who stays away from society for the benefit of himself and others – to the extent that he illegally buys blood for consumption from a hospital intern. But one day, the monotony of the vampire’s existence is disrupted by nineteen-year-old Andrea, who shows up at his apartment claiming to be the result of a romance between Jack and her mother. At the same time, local gangsters start taking an interest in Jack, as does Cara, a waitress from the soup kitchen who is in love with him. Due to unfortunate circumstances, the vampire will be forced out of his comfort zone.

he never died

Screenwriter and director Jason Krawczyk created the character of Jack specifically with Henry Rollins in mind – an American singer, writer, poet, actor, and television and radio host who led the punk rock band Black Flag from 1981 to 1986. For nearly three decades, Rollins has also appeared in films and TV shows, often in supporting roles – he had brief roles in films like “Heat” (1995) by Michael Mann and “Lost Highway” (1997) by David Lynch. “He Never Died” is the first film in which Rollins played the lead role. Rollins immediately liked Krawczyk’s script. “The next day [after reading the script], I met with the director and producer and said ‘Yes,’ so we got into it and made the film. It was cool to do,” Rollins said in an interview with Production began in November 2013 in Toronto and finished in December of the same year.

“He Never Died” premiered at the South by Southwest multimedia festival in Austin in March 2015. A few months later, the film was released on DVD and streaming platforms. Audience and critical reactions were very positive: the film’s comedic tone, Rollins’ acting, cinematography, sound, and original story and character of Jack were praised. “Classy, funny neo-noir,” wrote Drew Tinnin on Dead Central; “A comedic and brutal gem with a fascinating lead character,” exclaimed Rob Hunter on Film School Rejects; “What distinguishes ‘He Never Died’ is primarily the man at its center [Rollins],” noted Michael Gingold of The favorable reception prompted Krawczyk and Rollins to consider creating both a sequel and a miniseries about Jack’s further adventures. However, only a “sister sequel” titled “She Never Died” (2019) directed by Audrey Cummings was produced, without the character of Jack and Rollins’ involvement.

Krawczyk’s spirited film is not strictly genre-based – the creators took the well-known noir trope of the “lone avenger against all” from literature, cinema, and comics and placed it in the horror genre with elements of black comedy. The undeniable star of “He Never Died” is Henry Rollins, who revealed great comedic talent here: Jack is hilarious in his lifelessness and cynicism, and Rollins delivers his lines with a stone face and impeccable timing worthy of the greatest comedians. He can also be frightening and yet shows signs of humanity that still linger within Jack. However, there’s no talk of a cliché transformation; the filmmakers consistently play with the convention, and in the end, Jack remains the same grumpy recluse – but his identity is explained in a clever and satisfying way. “He Never Died” provides plenty of unpretentious entertainment and, who knows, may even have the makings of a cult classic.