“With a hypnotic and unnerving atmosphere, Amy Seimetz makes fear an airborne disease. ”
The most ambitious horror films are those that transcend their premise to engage with the daunting questions that pervade the human experience. While an intriguing concept can certainly take a film quite far, delving into our collective anxiety goes so much further. She Dies Tomorrow proves itself as a haunting addition to the genre by tackling the most human subject of all: the inevitability of death.
With a hypnotic but unnerving atmosphere, writer/director Amy Seimetz makes fear an airborne disease. Existential and mesmerizing, terrifying yet tender, She Dies Tomorrow treats horror like an infection. With ease and patience, the film enters your system and introduces Kate Lyn Sheil as Amy: an independent woman, a recovering alcoholic and a new homeowner. This is a woman who recognizes the importance of taking charge in her life. Yet, with each passing moment, her lack of control becomes increasingly evident and the feeling that something is off continues to solidify. Amy mills about her home, tracing floorboards and googling urns. When at last she declares, “I’m going to die tomorrow,” although the sentence is inherently chilling, it also clicks everything into place. Amy is going to die tomorrow. There is no explanation for this fact, but it appears true all the same: Amy is going to die tomorrow.
As existential dread seizes control of her mind, Amy struggles to make the most of her remaining hours. She shares the knowledge of her impending death with her friend Jane (Jane Adams), who writes this off as the result of a relapse. She leaves Amy alone, in the hopes that time will assuage her fears. Instead, Amy’s anxiety creeps its way into Jane’s mind, disrupting her work and eventually sending her down the same path. In a quiet moment of realization, Jane too becomes convinced that she will die tomorrow.
Through Jane and Amy, the disease continues to spread. Each character copes differently, working through the implications death has on their lives. Reactions range from full scale breakdowns to quiet acceptance, but consistent throughout the film is the viewers discomfort. Seimetz masterfully builds tension, making you conscious of the foreboding feeling that pumps through each character before clinging to the next. A tense soundscape and Jay Keitel’s hypnotic cinematography hold the viewer hostage, slowing down every inhale and exhale, giving weight and tangibility to each character’s fear.
Experimental in style, the film does not prioritize its premise, leaving much unanswered and unclear. While the story is never incoherent, the prolonged confusion is less than ideal. The film takes time to find its footing and stake its intentions; however, once it does, it becomes abundantly clear that the viewers understanding takes a back seat to the consequences of empathy. The film’s action takes place in a haze of neon, trading narrative for formless anxiety simply on a whim. Seimetz has no interest in granting the viewer closure or holding your hand along the way: the emotions and weight of the characters’ psyche take precedent.
She Dies Tomorrow does not need COVID-19 to function: it was conceived of, written and shot long before the virus upturned life. Still, the film’s relationship to the pandemic is undeniable. It exacerbates many of quarantine’s unfortunate side effects; like the film’s infected characters, we are haunted by the possibilities of time and death. Our lives have been so thoroughly disrupted by fear that seeing beyond the present feels impossible. Fear isn’t just contagious, it’s crippling. With nihilism and neon lights, Seimetz ponders how we find meaning when our reality has been ruptured. Even more, she forces her audience to face a thought we’ve recently become all too familiar with: fear of what tomorrow holds.
Director: Amy Seimetz
Producers: David Lawson, Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson
Cast: Kate Lyn Sheil, Jane Adams, Kentucker Audley, Chris Messina, Michelle Rodriguez
She Dies Tomorrow is on Curzon Home Cinema, BFI Player and Digital Download 28 August