Published Nov 26, 2019She Never Died, the third feature from Canadian director Audrey Cummings and the followup/flipside to 2015's horror-comedy He Never Died, is consistently feminist without being preachy. She Never Died packages a story about trauma and strength within a fun, action-packed sequel that stands tall on its own, with an incredible star turn from lead actor Olunike Adeliyi.
Playing off the same concept as its predecessor, She Never Died is the story of Lacey (Adeliyi), a seemingly immortal homeless woman who can't be killed by bullets, blunt force trauma or any of the deadly weapons wielded by the various thugs and goons she tears apart on a daily basis. There's a more practical reason to murdering criminals than just cleaning up the streets: Lacey also needs to consume people in order to survive. (Fingers, she explains in an amusingly deadpan scene, are easiest: "They fit in my pocket. And I need the bone marrow.")
Ornery and antisocial, Lacey lives alone on the streets and avoids getting too close to anyone. When frustrated Detective Godfrey (Peter MacNeill) witnesses Lacey survive a gunshot wound to the head after dismembering a couple of gangbangers, he approaches her with a deal: if she takes down the ruthless brother-sister duo (Noah Dalton Danby and Michelle Nolden) responsible for a massive human trafficking and snuff films ring, he'll provide her with a quiet, clean place to live. But when Lacey inadvertently befriends a young woman named Suzzie (Kiana Madeira) she rescues from a kidnapping situation, she realizes caring for people makes her infinitely more vulnerable.
The scenes between Suzzie and Lacey are some of the film's best, as two damaged-but-not-broken women learn to bond over and work through trauma — via revenge, of course, but also by opening up. Suzzie's chipper attitude and relentless spunk hide emotional and physical wounds, and getting Lacey to say anything at all is a chore. It's a smart and honest portrayal of the ways women are taught to suppress trauma, either by pretending it never happened or by leaving it unspoken and unacknowledged. And while the film avoids sensationalizing the human trafficking aspect of the story, the possibility of violence against women is always lurking in the background, coldly and callously discussed by criminals who exploit the weak. Until Lacey kicks someone's teeth in, of course.
It's incredibly cathartic to watch Lacey beat the shit out of both men and women who truly deserve it. It's one of the reasons why Suzzie, constantly taken advantage of by the powerful patriarchy, is so amusingly enamored of Lacey — she stands up for the downtrodden, the powerless. Even Detective Godfrey, frustrated by a legal system that allows murderers and rapists to roam free, is in awe of Lacey's abilities, even as he's continuously baffled by them. The reveal of just how much power Lacey has is a frequent source of comedy throughout the film that prevents it from being weighed down by its heavy subjects, adding much-needed levity throughout. The action sequences are also imbued with a heavy dose of exhilarating fun, and Adeliyi, who performed many of her own stunts, brings a physicality to the role that makes the audience feel every punch and kick.
The only real flaw with She Never Died is an ending that feels a bit rushed and incomplete, depending upon the viewers' familiarity with its predecessor, and setting up for a sequel that may or may not occur. But it's a small quibble and one that doesn't ruin the experience of watching all the balls-to-the-wall action or prevent us from rooting for its smart, tough, relatable female characters.