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VOD Review: She Dies Tomorrow

August 7, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Pitched somewhere between horror movie, psychological thriller, dark comedy, and hallucinatory fever dream, while refusing to settle for any single one of those things, She Dies Tomorrow functions as an intriguing look at anxiety and mass hysteria.

Written and directed by Amy Seimetz, an actor who starred in Upstream Color and made her feature directorial debut in 2012 with Sun Don’t Shine, the film follows a woman named Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) who is convinced that she is going to die tomorrow. We don’t exactly know why, but when we first meet her in the film, she is drinking and very distressed.

Not much happens for roughly the first twenty minutes of She Dies Tomorrow; we simply observe Amy as she behaves oddly at home. Then things start to get quite interesting. She gets a visit from her old friend Jane (Jane Adams), who tries to help, but Amy is insistent that her demise is imminent and that she wants a leather jacket made out of her skin. It’s not long before Jane becomes convinced that she will also die tomorrow, and starts spreading this paranoia to more and more people.

It’s a premise that, on the surface, seems sort of like It Follows; a plague of sorts keeps getting passed from person to person, leading to increasing paranoia as interactions between the infected cause the disease to rapidly spread. The story itself is fairly simple, but what Seimetz does with it makes her film unique and much harder to define. The film plays vaguely as a horror movie, but it’s also not that simple, and there are multiple ways to interpret the story.

It works as a breakup movie and as an allegorical story about addiction and relapse. It also works as a portrait of the devastating effects of mental illness, and how the fallout from one person’s breakdown can have untold consequences on those around them. The elusive nature of the story keeps all of these different interpretations in constant play, and Seimetz, who made the film following a very dark period in her own life, refuses to settle for easy or decisive answers.

In short, Seimetz was previously engaged to her Upstream Color director and co-star Shane Carruth, a relationship that ended due to horrific abuse. This information was only made public recently, pushed to the forefront through images of Carruth’s restraining order against her that he “accidentally” posted on twitter. None of this should overshadow Seimetz’s film, as was possibly Carruth’s intention, but it does provide some insight into what headspace she was in when developing the film.

As Amy, Sheil grounds the film with a performance that is both sympathetic and unsettling, doing an excellent job of portraying a woman who is unravelling from the knowledge of her mortality. Jay Keitel’s impressive cinematography adds a dream-like feel to She Dies Tomorrow, as he plays with colour and light in an at times hypnotic way, including a strobing effect (any photosensitive viewers should proceed with caution) that precedes the realization of impending death.

The film also features some unnerving sound design, which really adds to the eerie feel of it all. This is the epitome of a strange, offbeat, idiosyncratic movie that won’t be for everyone. But if you are able to go along with it, She Dies Tomorrow reveals itself to be something interesting and often unsettling, as it explores how contagious the fear of death can truly be.

She Dies Tomorrow is being released today on a variety of digital and VOD platforms. It’s being distributed in Canada by Elevation Pictures.

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