If Charles Bukowski wrote Highlander…

He Never Died (2015) Dir: Jason Krawczyk
Henry Rollins, Kate Greenhouse, Jordan Todosey

…Then you’d probably have ended up with this quirky oddball of a film starring bull necked ex Black Flag frontman and wordsmith Henry Rollins as Jack, a mysterious antisocial loner who just happens to be immortal, cursed with an unfortunate addiction to blood and human flesh.

Jack lives alone in a grubby apartment, only interacting with the outside world by playing bingo, purchasing blood from hospital intern Jeremy (Booboo Stewart), and making trips to the local diner where waitress Cara (Greenhouse) has developed a crush on him.

Two events conspire to interrupt Jack’s strict, but quiet routine. First;  Andrea, a daughter from a long ago relationship rocks up on his doorstep, then Jeremy is kidnapped by two hoods who he is deep in debt to. When these two factors collide, Jack is forced into action.

This is an excellent film. If you have Netflix go and watch it now. Rarely has there been a horror flick with such pathos, superb acting and writing. He Never Died stands out even more considering it was made for the VoD market, which is notoriously awash with derivative jump horror dross. Great performances across the board, especially from Rollins (Henry, if you ever read this, we love you!) and Kate Greenhouse, who works wonders given that her character is required to spend most of the running time wondering wtf is going on.

Director Krawczyk also wrote the screenplay which cleverly keeps Jack’s nature and origins deliberately ambiguous (is he a vampire? A fallen angel?), with some great naturalistic, funny dialogue and subte visual clues (just what are those scars on Jack’s shoulder blades glimpsed in the opening scenes?). Jordan Todosay as Andrea more than holds her own as a foil to Rollins, and their scenes together gain an emotional resonance as the film goes on.

Strange as it seems, the film this most reminds me of is Clint Eastwood’s dark western classic Unforgiven (1992). The tale of a seemingly unlikable protagonist with a very dark past seeking redemption is at the core of both films, and Krawczyk handles the material his material at least as well as far more experienced filmmakers like Eastwood. It just goes to show that talent, and a good story well told and acted doesn’t need a Michael Bay level budget and attendant egos to come up with the goods.

Happily it seems that a sequel is on the cards (not to give anything away, but the film ends with several strands left open for a continuation). According to The Hollywood Reporter, both Krawczyk and Rollins are on board and filming is due to start in May. Watch this space.

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