She Dies Tomorrow

Fear really is contagious

Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) knows she’s going to die. There is nothing wrong with Amy; she is perfectly healthy and has just purchased a house, but she is filled with the certainty that she will not see the end of the next day. The fear begins to consume her and proves contagious as her friend Jane begins to experience the same debilitating fear.

She Dies Tomorrow, indie-darling Amy Seimetz’s long overdue return to directing, toys with the idea of looming death and the way this fear sinks its claws into our soul. But it has more in mind than simply leading us towards the obvious and following the expected horror tropes. Rather, it aims to highlight the certainty of death, perhaps even its necessity, and our attempts to survive each second of that paralysing, uncontrollable dread.

Seimetz, who also wrote the script, boldly lets scenes flow forward with minimal dialogue and the strong cast, headlined by the compelling and enigmatic Kate Lyn Sheil, pull it off immaculately. Sheil is particularly impressive with her inner fragility and Seimetz places a lot of trust on her ability to fill the silences with free-flowing, almost angelic energy. Jane Adams is weird and wonderful as Jane and Chris Messina is a welcome and comforting presence in such a bleak and often hopeless film.

There is also something primal and wild about She Dies Tomorrow. It’s not violent or erotic and not much happens story-wise, but there’s something profoundly affecting about the way Amy keeps touching or writhing on the floor as if to ground herself into this reality rather than let the fear consume her completely. She Dies Tomorrow feels experimental and this could equally well work as an art installation or performance art. Seimetz’s bold use of light and music is wondrous and it’s a shame the film will not be experienced in the darkness of the cinema as this is an immersive, devastating experience. Some might even call the film life-altering.

The film lags a tiny bit in the middle; it could have used a little bit more narrative direction as it fails to find meaningful ways to fill its runtime, but the ending is sobering and overwhelming in its brutal honesty. While the fear and simultaneous need for death and the release it might bring looms over the characters, She Dies Tomorrow never becomes a film about mental health nor does it attempt to glorify death, quite the opposite in fact. The finality and inevitability of death are the sources of the horror here and the film feels like a personal exploration of her deepest fears for Seimetz, who has given the main character her own name. The film doesn’t feel particularly triggering but it accurately portrays the paranoia and despair Amy, Jane and the growing number of other characters experience. We’ve all felt it; the absolute certainty that something is irreversibly wrong and out of our hands, the crippling helplessness that eats you away from the inside.

But with the inevitability of death also comes a freedom as characters are finally able to honestly tell each other how they feel. Death brings honesty and takes away remorse and it’s hard not to wonder why these truths couldn’t be spoken without the paralysing fear. Amy is obsessed with leather work, hoping to find meaning for her life after her unavoidable death and it’s a little morbid, but it’s never treated as something horrifying but real and even something comforting and beautiful.

Dripping with existential dread, She Dies Tomorrow is an intoxicating, unsettling and darkly funny film. Seimetz’s direction is ambitious and empathetic and this is one of the year’s most surreal and affecting releases. It’s a film that is as much about the painful reality of living, as it is about coming to terms with death.

She Dies Tomorrow is available on Curzon Home Cinema and digital download from August 28.

Maria Lattila

Updated: Aug 27, 2020

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