The zombie movie has, quite frankly, been done to death (pun absolutely intended). It can be difficult to put a unique spin on the genre by this stage, though there are the rare examples in recent years, such as the romantic horror Warm Bodies and the South Korean action horror Train to Busan.
Audrey Cummings’ She Never Died, released in October this year, doesn’t deal with zombies, but instead takes strands from varying brands of horror and blends them together. The result is a horror comedy that dares to be different and succeeds…for the most part.
She Never Died is in fact a sequel to Jason Krawczyk’s 2015 Canadian/American co-production He Never Died, which follows the increasingly violent exploits of an immortal with cannibalistic urges that frequently get the better of him. I would recommend watching this before She Never Died, which is again written by Krawczyk, as there is valuable context missing that explains some of the unaddressed questions in Cummings’ film, primarily regarding her own cannibalistic protagonist Lacey (Olunike Adeliyi).
I appreciated the fact that She Never Died doesn’t get bogged down by sigh-inducing exposition, as it grants Cummings breathing room to realise the screenplay that she clearly understood from the beginning, maintaining an almost seamless interplay of violent horror and surprisingly accomplished comedy. All you need to know is that Lacey’s an immortal with a mysterious past who satiates her taste for human flesh (or marrow, more specifically) on those who she feels deserves it, which eventually brings her down the same path as jaded police detective Godfrey (Peter MacNeill). Godfrey seeks to bring down the same people targeted by Lacey, who are running a deadly ring involving abduction and snuff films, so the odd couple decide to team up.
Cummings delivers solid direction, preserving a consistent tone throughout that neither betrays its horror nor its comedy, while each and every character written by Krawczyk is noticeably unique. Not every performance from the cast is as consistent as others, but still works well in the grand scheme of things. Adeliyi is impressive, but I do think her character overstays her wallowing period, while Kiana Madeira, who plays Suzzie, delivers her dramatic moments well, which is crucial in unveiling Lacey’s humanity, though she does tend to oversell her youthful vibrance to the point of distraction.
There’s the old adage that a hero is defined by their villains, and if that’s the case then siblings Meredith (Michelle Nolden) and Terrance (Noah Danby) do an immense service to Lacey’s character, even if the screenplay doesn’t know it at times. The twisted nature of their relationship is right at home in such a medley of violence and comedy, and while Nolden does a serviceable job as Meredith, it’s Danby’s performance that had me floored.
Terrance is an excellently written character, one that you can just tell pops off the page the moment you read the script, while Danby’s performance exudes a naturalism that should have no place playing a deluded masochist with a sweet tooth, yet he pulls it off in every single scene. Danby is without question the best thing about She Never Died, which makes Terrance’s arc in the final act all the more disappointing.
For a film that pays a surprising amount of attention to the nuances of its characters, it sadly grows careless in its climactic sequence. Its first mistake is discarding Terrance in a manner unbefitting of his immensely charismatic presence, whose absence inadvertently reveals Meredith to be nothing more than a disappointingly hollow shell without him. All this is capped off with noticeably subpar editing that commits the cardinal sin of drawing attention to itself.
The final moments of She Never Died do, however, contain a few interesting nuggets that not only holler back to the first film, but also look to the future in a manner that I think could be interesting. It’s a shame that She Never Died couldn’t stick the landing in much of its third act, but Cummings nonetheless delivers an enjoyable horror flick with a little twist.
Just be wary of when it mistakenly bites its own tongue.