Casting Henry Rollins as a weary, indifferent cannibal is as inspiring as it gets. If you’ve seen Rollins in any of his acting roles (Devil’s Tomb, Sons of Anarchy, hell, even Kroll Show), you’ll know he emits a menacing air every time. He’s aware of his legendary persona and isn’t afraid to have fun with it. Even in Heat, where he shared screen time with De Niro, Rollins effortlessly dominates a scene by just standing there and doing nothing at all.
In Jason Krawczyk’s He Never Died, Rollins’ intimidating persona is cleverly utilized to subvert expectations. He plays Jack, a somber loner whose disdain for the human race is palpable one. His past is only hinted at, as we gradually learn that he’s caused some seriously horrible shit back in the day and at this point would just rather avoid human contact altogether. The catch is he’s an immortal cannibal who needs to consume flesh/blood to survive. Begrudgingly, he feeds on black-market blood packs and as circumstances call, fresh human flesh as well.
Man, I’ve only been on the planet 32 years and I go out of my way to avoid human contact. Imagine being here for centuries? It’s no wonder Jack only leaves his apartment to hit up a diner or play bingo. This part fits Rollins and his dead-stare very, very well.
When a woman from his past resurfaces, Jack’s reclusive life is upheaved in spades. Turns out he has a teenage daughter named Andrea (Jordan Todosey) who’s as outgoing and excitable as he is withdrawn and misanthropic. This little angel could add some much-needed energy to his life, if he’d only let his guard down.
This family drama is balanced with the horror elements very well and Krawczyk’ displays an assured stance as a director. The problem is that the film has an overall feel of vagueness that allows the film to simply drift until its end. The film flirts with providing Jack with a mythology, but by the third or fourth time he is shot or tortured, it’s tough to feel sympathy. The concept is a very compelling one and the casting of Rollins is downright perfect, but He Never Died unfortunately suffers from an aimless vibe that leads to a terribly anticlimactic finish. Although there are some wicked interesting things going on in the film, it never feels cohesive or particularly gripping. Krawczyk is an assured director, there’s no doubt of that. If only He Never Died had a stronger story he would’ve had a better display for his filmmaking talents.