How can it be so funny? Many films market themselves as ‘horror-comedy’, but the latter is usually a side-offering, not the main event. This is not the case with He Never Died. Writer-director Jason Krawczyk has crafted a careful balance of laughs and screams, enough to rival genre classics. Indeed, this could be one of the best entries since Shaun of the Dead way back in 2004.
That being said, He Never Died is a slow-burner. The first sound is someone knocking on an apartment door. The owner rises, revealing a heavily tattooed, muscular back. As he stumbles to the door, two things become clear. One, this man doesn’t want to be awake. Two, he isn’t entirely human. Above each shoulder-blade is a large diagonal scar. But why? Was something removed? If so, what?
This unanswered curiosity sets the tone for the rest of the film. Jack (Henry Rollins) is a man of uncertain age and origins. He owns an apartment, goes for walks and has a strict routine. This consists of sleeping, bingo and other mundane activities. The only exception are his regular meetings with Jeremy (Booboo Stewart), an intern who supplies him with hospital blood bags….which he stores in his fridge. It’s not long before Andrea (Jordan Todosey) turns up on Jack’s doorstep, disrupting his routine and claiming to be his daughter. When she’s captured by unknown forces, Jack has no choice but to unleash the best inside, stopping at nothing to bring her back.
Undoubtedly, much of the humour owes itself to Henry Rollins’ hilarious deadpan performance. Rollins’ seriousness calls attention to the utter ridiculousness of certain situations. It contributes to the films self-deprecating tone in a similar way that Bill Murray did in Ghostbusters. When Cara (Kate Greenhouse) asks Jack about his former jobs he responds with a never-ending list, from carpenter, to architect, to butcher, to blacksmith and more. No doubt the writing is excellent, but it’s Rollins’ monotone delivery that steals the show. Things are similar when Jack uses plyers to remove a bullet from his head later on in the film.
“No doubt the writing is excellent, but it’s Rollins’ monotone delivery that steals the show”
Having praised this, humour can be a double-edged sword. There are plenty of shock moments and Krawczyk delivers on the gore, but there’s never anything truly unsettling. You’ll scream at the blood, but besides that horror fans may leave a little disappointed. The reason being, each laugh diffuses tension, and the jokes come so fast that any attempt to build-up a chilling atmosphere breaks-down pretty quickly.
That being said, there is still much to enjoy in this rare gem of low-budget film-making. Fight scenes and tightly-choreographed and fluid. Each punch is accompanied by a grizzly sound-effects, making you feel every blow. The supporting cast (Stewart, Todosey, Greenhouse, Steven Ogg) are each well-matched to their respective characters. Adding to this a well-written script and stylish direction, there’s really very little to complain about. All in all, He Never Died is a thoroughly entertaining diversion. Watching it amongst in a crown was even better, as it brought the humour to the forefront. All in all, He Never Died is an entertaining diversion, and an excellent addition to Mayhem 2015.