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SHE NEVER DIED: The Most Promising Movie We Don’t Talk About Enough

By Sharai Bohannon, February 29, 2024
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She Never Died 2019 Courtesy of XYZ Films

In She Never Died, an awkward loner, Lacey (Olunike Adeliyi), saves a girl, Suzzie (Kiana Madeira), from being murdered on the dark web. Lacey then decides to put an end to the criminals behind the website once and for all. This horror thriller is bloody and has a supernatural twist I don’t want to ruin for people who haven’t seen it. However, I will say that Lacey’s powers make her kind of a superhero. They also haunt her and are part of the reason her enemies set out to capture her. This movie has no reason to be as good as it is. It makes a simple premise interesting while giving audience members who pay attention plenty to chew on. Like most art, there is plenty to unpack, but unfortunately, most critics did not watch it.

She Never Died is the sequel/ spin-off to He Never Died. It’s also the movie I would’ve wished for had I known the first one existed. I don’t have any ill will towards Henry Rollins, who was the lead in the original film, and I think he’s always seemed like a pretty cool dude. I just live in a society that constantly centers white men in these sorts of movies, and it makes me so tired. I find it hard to get excited for yet another entry in this neverending canon. I usually watch these flicks wondering what it would look like if a Black woman ever got to be so vicious, violent, and free. So, while He Never Died may be a great movie, the sequel is what I would have spent the whole runtime dreaming about. I want more filmmakers to allow us to be more than tropes and afterthoughts. I want more directors who understand that we are strong, smart, capable, and just as deserving of these supernatural badass roles. Then maybe when Black women-led action horror titles are on the rise, I could enjoy the original movie without it feeling like more of the regularly scheduled programming.

 

I accidentally discovered She Never Died a few years ago on Tubi while scouring the internet to find more horror with Black leads to break up the status quo. I didn’t know about He Never Died, and, again, without any intended shade, I don’t need to see it. I spend most of my time watching genre movies, and we are so woefully underrepresented on screen that it’s easy to go months without seeing a Black-led horror film if you don’t run to Google every so often. Most of society only deems stories about us to be trendy when it’s racial trauma porn. So, of course, no one was talking about a movie where a Black woman over the age of forty gets to be justifiably angry and vicious. 

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Olunike Adeliyi in She Never Died 2019 Courtesy of XYZ Films

On the surface, Lacey is a relatable character. She wants to eat her oatmeal in peace and make sure bad guys die painful deaths. I’m drawn to her moments of unrestrained rage. I also like that she’s a vegetarian because of what that says about the bone marrow she takes from the men harming women and animals. I think she is an icon and would love to see her in another movie or a limited series. I am obsessed with this character, and I love most of her journey in this movie. This film is a step towards where we should’ve been decades ago. Now that we have something noteworthy with a Black woman getting to kick some serious ass, we can start to finetune it. We now see where it went wrong, where it could’ve hit harder, and we can begin to finesse the formula for another outing. However, the film industry never seems to fully commit to us. Think of all the other one-and-done baddies like Sugar Hill (1974), Foxy Brown (1974), and Coffy (1973). 

We don’t get to lead franchises, no matter how iconic these films were or how many of us continue to beg the film industry for more representation. Instead, we get sidelined in action films where white guys blow stuff up and get to have adventures. I am thinking of Lashana Lynch (No Time To Die), Zazie Beetz (Deadpool 2), and Halle Berry in the X-Men franchise. If Storm can't even be central to the main storyline, what chance does anyone else have?

Not only does She Never Died put us directly into the action, but it also puts us in the forefront of a supernatural battle. This might be the closest we have ever been to something akin to Constantine, The Prophecy (1995), and Legion. Again, all movies many of us grew up on and enjoyed, but left no room for Black women to be badasses in their narratives. This is not due to a lack of Black women who could, and should, have led movies like this. Have you seen Danai Gurira in The Walking Dead or Black Panther? Are you familiar with most of Gina Torres' resume starting with Firefly? Even Regina King threw hands and changed lives in the Watchmen TV series. So many Black women would kick ass in these types of films, and the demand is so high, yet the industry refuses to budge. So, we have to hold tightly to the few times we see ourselves take the lead on the big screen.

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Olunike Adeliyi in She Never Died 2019 Courtesy of XYZ Films

I love She Never Died, but I am not saying it is a perfect movie. For all the things it heals in me and as much it makes me feel seen, it has its faults. It was written by Jason Krawczyk and directed by Audrey Cummings. For all that they surprisingly got right, neither of them are Black women. So, they might not be aware of some of the conversations the story stumbles into. For instance, when the bad guys capture Lacey, they are intrigued by her because she does not feel pain. They want to monetize that for their own gain and see what all they can do to her for the sake of their dark web audience. As a Black woman watching this unfold, I cannot help but think about how we are treated by medical professionals. Our pain is often ignored, and many of us are rarely believed or respected during our most vulnerable times. Were the filmmakers thinking about the history of Black women being experimented on without their knowledge or consent, like Henrietta Lacks? Did they know Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women? Or that the high death rate is mostly from preventable issues stemming from us being undervalued and our concerns getting dismissed? An issue that many Black women keep trying to call attention to today, including Serena Williams, who underwent a harrowing ordeal after giving birth simply because her doctors would not listen to her. 

 

They might have also not been as aware of the full impact of some imagery within the movie. Specifically, after Lacey is in the hands of the villains, they chain her to a chair to torture her. Seeing a Black person in chains is always alarming. However, when you carry the weight of America’s racist history and understand that the school-to-prison pipeline is still ruining lives today, it is a lot. As the country begins to legalize weed, I wonder about all of the Black people who received long sentences for selling drugs before it was trendy. Most of these sentences are so much longer than their white counterparts because, again, the systems in place to serve and protect society refuse to acknowledge our humanity. We are seen and treated as less than human, which is what is happening to Lacey in this part of the film.

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Olunike Adeliyi in She Never Died 2019 Courtesy of XYZ Films

Girl, That’s Scary recently covered the film on their podcast. I was so excited to hear other Black people who understand how the world treats Black women dissect it. Their discussion helped me figure out why a few other moments made me uneasy, but I could not quite put my finger on it. However, the conversation also left me longing for more Black critics to write about She Never Died. This is easier said than done because so few places pay Black writers for their time and talent. Regardless, the movie was reviewed by a meager 13 critics on Rotten Tomatoes but surprisingly holds a 100% score. Again, while we love to see allies, I still wish there were more Black reviewers listed on the film's page. 

 

Like most art, this movie does so many things well but is not above criticism. It begs for more in-depth analysis, more discussion, and the chance to be held up to some intense scrutiny. Because Black folks are not a monolith, it would be cool to see even more takes from us than the few I have found. There is so much to unpack in She Never Died that I feel like even I'm still skimming the surface. It would be amazing if enough of us talked about what is right, wrong, and muddy about this title. I believe this is an excellent jumping-off point for even more movies I long to see. I wish more people were as excited about it as I am and would give it the attention it is due.

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Olunike Adeliyi in She Never Died 2019 Courtesy of XYZ Films

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Sharai Bohannon is a playwright who has been produced in London, England, and all over America. Her play, IN THE END, was highlighted on The Kilroy’s 2020 List and was Equity Library Theatre’s 2019 All Access Reading Series Finalist. Her play WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS? (THE AUDIENCE SERVICES PLAY) was a 2021 Bay Area Playwrights Festival Semi-Finalist. She is also the founder/co-producer of Punching LaBute, a festival that strikes back at sexism to raise money for charities that support femmes. Additionally, she is a film and pop culture critic for various online magazines including The Everygirl, Dread Central, and her own Medium page. She created and co-hosts the podcasts, A Nightmare on Fierce Street and Blerdy Massacre. On the podcasts, she tackles horror films through a Black feminist lens. She also serves as the Director of Production for Rachel Lynett Theatre Company. She is managed by Empirical Evidence and currently resides in St Paul, Minnesota.

Find her on X and do think about buying her a coffee!

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