Aki Vs. Evil: He Never Died

This feels like it’s based on an obscure graphic novel, like something that’s actively trying to subvert certain tropes of superhero comics. It’s not, which probably means that these are now a genre onto themselves.


Let’s talk a little bit about Henry Rollins, who stars in this movie. He was a figure who always seemed to be at the periphery of my media consumption. I was aware of Black Flag, but I’m a bit too young to have been around when Rollins was the singer. He was in small roles in several movies during my late teens and early 20s (Johnny Mnemonic, Heat, Lost Highway). Rollins Band had an actual hit in Liar in mid-90s. I would see him listed in festival advertisements doing spoken word. He was always sort of there, but I didn’t have much reason to pay that much attention to him. I wish I had, because I like the way he approaches the world (of course, living in a small town in Finland in the 90s I wouldn’t have had many opportunities to do so). He has this weird smart version of common sense. And he’s way more honest than most people of his stature. There’s just so much pragmatism in his worldview, but unlike most people who would claim to be practical, he is not hateful. Quite the opposite, in fact. There’s a section in his spoken word album Keep Talking, Pal called “West LA Lunch” in which he talks about the reaction of his fans, when he was spotted with RuPaul, who assumed (somehow) that they were in a relationship and how he didn’t want to tell them the truth about the situation outright. But that’s enough of parasocial relationships for today.

Anyhow, Rollins is here in a rare starring role as Jack, a solitary man living in a depressing looking apartment and also seems to be in some sort of fugue state (although, I think there is an actual medical definition for that, but you know what I mean). Since we are genre-savvy, we know immediately that this isn’t a simple mortal we are talking about. A notion that gets reinforced as he soon goes out to buy a mysterious package from a medical intern. Having a fight with a couple of goons doesn’t help his attempts to maintain some sort of disguise doesn’t help either.

It turns out that he has a daughter, who stumbles into his life and things start to go forward quite fast. Possibly too fast for Jack, who always seems to be a bit slow to start. Turns out, certain people are interested in his daughter, but then it turns out that they were only interested in her to get to him.

The aforementioned indie comic book feel probably comes from The Crow and Sin City. The world is very dark and the movie is lit to represent that. The world also feels kind of small. The man, who picks up Jack’s drunk daughter from a bar one night just happens to also be the ex-husband of the waiter in the diner Jack visits regularly (and who happens to also be interested in Jack despite Jack’s inability to process that). It’s probably a budgetary limitation, but there aren’t many people around, which also makes it feel like the empty streets of the two movies above.

I do like the movie (probably mostly becaue of Rollins), but as I’m trying to write about it, it just feels pretty hard to justify. The villains are very boring (and also feel like Sin City rejects). The story just seems to stumble forwards, as Jack isn’t too interested in driving it. Things just seem to happen to him rather than him pushing much of anything forwards and that just doesn’t produce a very dynamic movie.

In fact, even though it is listed as horror in IMDb, Wikipedia and Rotten Tomatoes, it’s hard to see it as such. I guess it does belong to the “you’ll know horror when you see it” class due to the look of the movie, but it does also seem like a movie wherein trying to find a definition for a horror movie, this would be the outlier in so many cases. Well, it would if defining horror wouldn’t be so difficult even without this. On the other hand, Jack isn’t afraid at any point. To him, other people just complicate life. He would be fine without them and the stance he most takes is disinterest. If there is a horror element in the movie, it’s Jack himself, but he isn’t that scary either. Well, he is scary within the movie, but we know that he is harmless unless provoked and he even needs quite a bit of provoking. While it is sometimes hard to understand why he does decide to do the right thing, this kind of lack of predictability is hardly scary. It’s more like frustrating and not in the right way either.

Is there a philosophical point to the movie? I guess there’s the problems of immortality, which isn’t really very pertinent to most of us. Jack just isn’t that interested in his surroundings. He isn’t looking for anything new or different. He isn’t using the time he has to do anything productive. He is just there, killing time.

I know I’m not selling the movie very well, but I do like it. I’m probably on the same lines as those critics on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s good, but not especially. Mostly it’s different, which is something people who see a lot of movies like to look for. It’s no masterpiece, but I didn’t find that I had wasted my time either.

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