This is a smart, sassy and quite funny cannibal movie, which does not conform to most genre rules. I wanted to review it now, because the next movie in the series (not exactly a sequel), She Never Died, is going to be released this year.
The protagonist (I won’t say hero, even though modern superheroes shares a lot of his alienation and angst) is Jack (Henry Rollins). Rollins is wonderful in the role, making the film seem a lot less silly than it really is. The critic from rogerebert.com said:
“You don’t need to know anything about Henry Rollins to appreciate his tongue-noticeably-in-cheek action hero performance in horror/superhero genre hybrid “He Never Died.“
Unlike most superheroes, Jack is immortal, indestructible, and a cannibal. As a result of the first, he is deeply depressed, and as a result of the third, he has found a quiet routine (watching TV, playing bingo at the church hall) to keep his cannibalistic tendencies under control. Why bingo?
As a cannibal who doesn’t want to eat people, he has to buy blood from a hospital intern. A couple of thugs come looking for the intern but Jack beats them up and throws them out. When they find the intern, Jack rescues him, because he needs the blood. It satisfies his cravings, without actually having to kill anyone.
Then he discovers he has a daughter from a failed marriage. Andrea (Jordan Todosey from Degrassi) has her own problems with alcohol. Everybody has problems involving consumption, but isn’t that universal? She also asks a lot of questions. She is surprised when Jack says he doesn’t eat meat, I guess he looks pretty macho, and meat is so – well – culturally male.
Which is weird since he eats blood all the time. Sort of a reverse kosher rule I guess. Andrea asks if she can stay with him for a few days, which is another problem for his routine. Don’t we all sometimes wake up at night with the munchies?
When the thugs come looking for Jack, he tears the throat out of one of them, and eats it. It revives his hunger for flesh.
Jack then eats a particularly obnoxious neighbour. He walks the streets looking for people who deserve to be eaten (a bit like Sheila from The Santa Clarita Diet). He drops a wad of cash, but the proposed victim hurries to return it to him, making him apparently ineligible for consumption. He bumps into the leader of a gang of men on a dark street, but the man apologises, much to Jack’s disappointment. Luckily, he vomits on a bunch of street toughs, one of whom is aggressive enough and old enough to eat. Yes, there is also an age-limit to his cannibalism.
When he goes back to the diner, he is no longer a vegetarian. Well, cannibalism will do that. Lévi-Strauss wrote in “A Lesson in Wisdom from Mad Cows” about the link between a meat-based diet and cannibalism.
“The link between a meat-based diet and cannibalism (a notion broadened to take on a certain universality) thus has very deep roots in thought…. Indeed, a day may come when the idea that human beings in the past raised and slaughtered living things for food and complacently displayed slabs of their flesh in shop windows will inspire the same revulsion as what travellers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries felt about the cannibal meals of American, Oceanian, or African indigenous peoples.”
So, in life there’s appetite, and there’s love. A phone message informs Jack that Andrea has been kidnapped and her mother killed, but he hardly reacts, doesn’t even go to the assigned rendezvous. But then Jack walks home Cara, the waitress from the diner (Kate Greenhouse), and is surprised by a sudden show of affection.
He rushes home, intent on going back to his peaceful life of drinking blood and not killing people, but spills the last bag of blood all over the floor. He tries to lick it up, sponges up what he can, squeezes it into a glass, but it’s not enough. It’s never enough.
When the bad guys turn up at the diner and kill the boss, Jack wipes them out, snacks on parts of them, and goes looking for his daughter. Love, supported by appetite.
He gets shot in the head and has to borrow Cara’s toolkit to get the bullet out, because otherwise it will heal over and he’ll get migraines. She is starting to realise he is not what she expected.
So we find out what we sort of knew from the unfortunate, spoiler title of the movie:
Yes, Jack is Cain, son of Adam and Eve, who killed his brother Abel and has been cursed to wander the planet ever since. Cain makes another appearance in the TV series Lucifer, but not as a cannibal, so outside the scope of this blog. Good show though.
The bad guys have turned Jack back into one of them. But there’s all sorts of dodgy metaphysical questions raised, most of which don’t get answered. Since when is Cain a cannibal? Why has he been involved in famines and massacres throughout history? Who is the dude in the pork pie hat who appears only to Jack?
Cain was a peaceful grower of crops, a tiller of the land, while Abel was a shepherd, presumably killing his lambs for his sacrifice. How does that make Cain the bad guy in the argument? Anyway, why do we need a reason for Jack’s cannibalism: a divine punishment? Can’t it be enough that he just is the way he is? As Hannibal says: “nothing happened to me, Agent Starling. I happened.”
Jack cannot die, and cannot live without being a cannibal.
But isn’t that the story of Homo sapiens?
The movie has 87% “fresh” rating on the Tomatometer.