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‘He Never Died’ At The Egyptian Theater, Thursday October 7th 2015 Review

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Shepard Fairey & Henry Rollins

 

I had never been to the Beyond Fest at the Egyptian theater, and it’s now done as I attended the West Coast premiere of ‘He Never Died’, a film by Jason Krawczyk starring Henry Rollins. Since the festival is a horror fest, it may give you an idea of the direction of the movie, although it is so much more than a simple gore fest.

During the Q&A with Shepard Fairey, Rollins said the role had been written for him, and this didn’t come as a surprise for me as the ex-Black Flag frontman embodies Jack’s character to perfection, an anti-social loner bored to death and trapped in a life that never ends,… an immortal vampire living an extremely dull suburban life. When the highlight of your week is a Bingo party in a room filled with septuagenarians, you have probably reached the limit of existence. However, like the demonic screams which fill certain scenes, Jack’s inner world is full of memories of his thousand lives; he says at one point he has no idea of his age but much later in the movie he gives Cain (The Bible’s Cain and Abel!!) as a clue, which could open a myriad of layers of explanation… the first sinner, murderer of humanity can’t die? Deal with it. Jack has a box full of treasures of all the wars and adventures he went through and tons of money whose origin remains uncertain but he spent most of his life in bed, when he doesn’t get in trouble with some low-life mafia guys who become interested by Jack’s suspicious activities with Jeremy, a hospital intern. A vampire has to get his blood one way or another, and Jack constantly struggles against his inner strong impulse to kill people to feed his bloody needs. He is a guy of routine and self-domination, like a Hulk monster ready to explode at any minute, and when he finally thinks he has full control over his life, an unexpected visit of his estranged daughter, 19-year-old Andrea (Jordan Todosey), turns his life upside down, violently interrupting his bingo-diner-TV-bed routine, and a series of events, involving the kidnapping of his daughter, forces his violent past to jump at his face in the most horrific way.

Rollins is really excellent in the role of this dark character, flesh-eating vampire, suddenly turned superhero despite his beastie tendencies. He is extremely strong even invincible, and has taken more bullets in his body than he can count, but he plays Jack with a lot of ambiguities, in the sense that he is never the bad or the good guy, he coldly kills and eats humans but saves his daughter. He also brings a lot of sadness to the role of the emotionally withdrawn Jack, because why getting attached when you are going to survive everyone? Plus, there are some existentialist questions that naturally come when mortality has been denied to a character… what do you do when you never die? Despite his bear-like manners, he manages to capture the attention of Cara, the waitress (Kate Greenwood) at the diner he visits every day. Since the setting is the cold city of Toronto, and the ultra-violence scenes are truly gruesome, bloody, and cannibalistic, this somewhat has a ‘As Good As It Gets’ meets ‘Fargo’ vibe. This is especially true as the most surprising aspect of this existentialist horror comedy is precisely its dry comedy side, often surpassing its horror side,… the dialogues are funny, notably the tirades delivered in a deadpan tone by Jack, the boring vegetarian, alcohol-and-smoke-free vampire.

May be you will need to be a Rollins fan to truly enjoy the movie, because he is in every scene and eats up everything with his overwhelming presence. After the movie, Jack, a man of so few words, became Rollins, a man of so many words during the Q&A with Shepard Fairey. But Rolling is a little bit like Jack, he had many lives, he became a punk icon, retired from music, wrote books and went on speaking tours, did radio shows and acted in a number of films, but this is the first time he has the lead role in a movie. They mentioned this could become a TV series, since Rollins said he had a million of questions about Jack and would like to explore more the character. ‘If it was like this all the time, I would be doing nothing else but acting’ he said with his well-known enthusiasm. ‘He Never Died’ is a genre bender movie exploring the layers of life in a sophisticated way and it’s hard not to be sucked in Jack’s boredom.

A few pictures of the Q&A here

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