In Plain Sight: She Never Died

As a programmer for The Blood in the Snow Film Festival, I have the privilege of seeing some fantastic films created here in Canada, and I feel even luckier when we acquire them. One such film, She Never Died, screened in 2019 to great acclaim. Directed by Audrey Cummings, it’s not exactly a sequel to the 2015 He Never Died, but more like a sister or companion piece that gives us another angle to writer John Krawczyk’s neo-noir universe of otherworldly beings.

Detective Godfrey (Peter MacNeil) is after Terrance (Noah Dalton Danby), who, along with his sister Meredith (Michelle Nolden) traffics drugs and humans but they’re always one step ahead of him. Lacey (Olunike Aldeliyi), a local street person, is also looking for Terrance to be her next meal.  When she sees him one day she goes after him and survives a shot to the head without flinching when she comes across Terrance’s goons instead. Godfrey witnesses Lacey survive her deadly injury and learns she’s much more than what she appears to be. Only the worst humans suit Lacey’s palate so she’s on board when Godfrey wants to team up with her to catch Terrance, but when she rescues Suzzie (Kiana Madeira) from one of his lairs, her life becomes complicated, especially when her demons come back to haunt her.

She Never Died is brimming with female power. Cummings creates an environment where her cast makes the characters shine in this dangerous world. The lead, Olunike Adeliyi, is a force as Lacey who is a multi-dimensional character; equally powerful and supernatural with a tenderness buried deep inside her immortal shell. Cummings and Adeliyi worked together on the fantasy/sci-fi Darken in 2017, and there is a shorthand between them that is pure gold.

I chose this film as a part of my series for Adeliyi’s performance in this fantasy world and Cummings’s dedication to diversity. The first installment in this series starred Henry Rollins. He’s not a typical choice for a lead role since Rollins has always been on the fringe with his punk and socially conscious way of life, and he puts that experience into the main character Jack. With Lacey, Adeliyi is an informed choice and one that needs to be acknowledged in the Afrofuturistic realm.

Adeliyi’s portrayal of Lacey is extremely nuanced and is the embodiment of what being a black woman is in the real world. She is invisible masquerading as a street person and invisible as a black woman with her power and rage seething under the surface. She keeps her cards close to her chest and reveals little due to her fierce control around her vulnerability. She decides where and when she uses her power. As black women, there are times when we don’t want to call attention to ourselves and our emotions because often our validity is questioned and we suffer denial or worse, violence. Lacey is the essence of a black woman’s anger and frustration: deconstructed, unadorned, and pure. The metaphor we find in the scenes where Lacey is in chains is powerful and even more so when she breaks free of them. Adeliyi manages to convey that Lacey doesn’t necessarily fear for her wellbeing though, but more for the lives of those who do wrong in society and those she tries to protect since her rules of justice are brutally clear. In Afrofuturism terms, Lacey is a superhero who reshapes a mythology because the inclusion of her character as a black woman redefines where black characters are placed and who can be a hero.

She Never Died covers humor as well in this stark world. There is some darkly funny banter that keeps the same tone as the first film, and great chemistry between Adeliyi and Madeira as unlikely allies. There’s also an appearance by Canadian music veteran Lawrence Gowan and another open ending for more in this world of lost souls.

Check out why She Never Died brought Adeliyi Blood in the Snow’s 2019 Best Actress Award and why Cummings received the Blood in the Snow 2019 Vanguard Award. It’s streaming now on Apple TV and VOD in Canada with your cable provider.

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