"So, the Civil War… What was that like?"
"I don't know. I was in China."
He Never Died is a quiet little film with a very wry sense of humor. It's about Jack. Jack (Henry Rollins) leads a quiet life. He sleeps most of the time. He lives in a run-down tiny apartment. He ventures out only to go to the local diner, where his waitress Cara (Kate Greenhouse) is obviously carrying a blazing torch for him - but Jack clearly has no idea - and to a nearby church, where he plays Bingo with stolid consistency. The only hint we get that his life may not be totally normal initially is when we see him trudge off to meet a young man named Jeremy (Booboo Stewart) who is sleeping in a car waiting for him. There is a transaction involving money and a package from the trunk, which Jack takes back to his apartment and puts in the otherwise empty fridge before going back to sleep.
Another day in the life of Jack.
Then, because this is a movie, his clearly-demonstrated routine existence begins to be disrupted. A young girl knocks on his door, and when he opens it, looks at him for a moment before running away. He shuts the door, which is his usual response to anything outside of his normal routine. Then he arrives to find his young car-meet supplier being hassled by a pair of toughs and he's forced to intervene. Not because he gives a crap about the young man, clearly, but because his routine is being interrupted and he needs his package.
The big shift that knocks him out of his comfort zone, is that the girl who came to his door is revealed, via phone call, to be his daughter, whom he didn't know he had. She's a bit of a wild case, and needs some looking after.
"I, uh, don't have money, so…"
"Then how did you end up inebriated?"
"Vaginas are kind of like coupon books for alcohol."
And then it gets even worse, his day spiraling into a gyre of complications and external factors and plain interference.
And then it starts to get violent. Jack meets the violence with the same weary stolid directness as he deals with everything else in his life, as far as we've seen. But that's when things get odd, because it seems that Jack - although he bleeds quite normally when injured - doesn't really seem to have any other reaction than annoyance and pain. Even to things that should drop him to the ground.
It becomes clear that this is nothing new for Jack. And as the title tells us, no matter what happens to him- he never died.
The movie is horror, with a generous helping of noir, with a lot of very, very dry wit. I won't actually say comedy, because it's not comedy, it's wit or humor and there's a difference. A lot of the latter is in pauses, or in reactions to things, or in conversations which sound relatively normal but are being had in outlandish situations. As a film, it's very very small - it's about Jack and a few other people, and it takes place in a very small part of a completely generic American city of unknown size or location. The violence keeps ramping up throughout, and we learn a bit about who Jack is. There's a great sequence where Cara asks him what he does, and he says not much now, but he used to do a little bit of everything. Then he starts listing things.
As you might imagine, things eventually spin entirely out of control. We watch Jack lose control of the carefully neutral existence he has crafted for himself, knocked out of equilibrium by violence and people and his own needs. But don't worry, Jack stays Jack. And eventually, those around him begin to learn he's not normal. At all.
As I said, it's a small movie. It's like In Bruges - it's about the characters and their situation, not the world. The world is our world, and you can just accept that and move on, the movie doesn't care. There's no Big Truths here. There's just Jack. And he's tired. And in the only scene where he loses his temper, we find that he's really angry about the fact that He Never Died.
He Never Died (2015)
Written and directed by Jason Krawczyk
Jack - Henry Rollins
Jeremy - Booboo Stewart
Andrea - Jordan Todosey
Cara - Kate Greenhouse