By MICHAEL GINGOLD
Starring Kate Lyn Shiel, Jane Adams and Kentucker Audley
Written and directed by Amy Seimetz
Existential dread has been explored frequently on film, but SHE DIES TOMORROW may be the first movie to suggest it’s contagious. The second feature written and directed by actress Amy Seimetz (whose many genre credits range from BITTER FEAST and YOU’RE NEXT to PET SEMATARY and ALIEN: COVENANT) has emerged at a time when its themes are especially relevant, but it taps into timeless anxieties about fate and the future.
The concepts explored in SHE DIES TOMORROW are clearly personal to Seimetz; her lead character (played by Kate Lyn Shiel) is also named Amy, just moved into a new house after, we soon learn, having recovered from both a drinking problem and a relationship gone bad. It’s understandable that she might not be in the best place emotionally, but now she has somehow become overwhelmed by the conviction that she’s going to die the next day, and wanders through her home in a kind of fugue state, drinking wine and repeatedly playing a piece from Mozart’s Requiem on her turntable. When she calls her best friend Jane (Jane Adams) for solace, Jane natters on about her own trivial problems, not comprehending the depth of Amy’s disturbance–until she drops by, and the certainty of impending death gets passed on to Jane like a virus. The transference is signaled by flashing colored lights, suggesting a bit of giallo influence on a film that otherwise sustains a quiet, muted, eerie mood.
Now possessed by the sense of her imminent mortality, Jane wanders into a birthday party for her sister-in-law Susan (Katie Aselton), where she spreads the “infection” further. Seimetz doesn’t explain the nature of this communicable dread, which isn’t the point anyway; rather, she’s after an exploration of how different people respond in distinct ways to a very basic fear–that our time on Earth is limited–and what happens when that period suddenly becomes compressed. SHE DIES TOMORROW doesn’t engage in the storytelling tropes and pacing of typical horror fare; it unfolds at a deliberate pace, with only a smattering of visual scares, the frightening side more a function of the ominous score by Mondo Boys and Mary Ellen Porto’s unsettling sound design. There are odd, telling details signposted throughout the movie as well (like a clock seen in a mirror, time ticking backwards), and surreal, abstract touches, as when we take the point of view of Jane, an artist, as she gazes through a microscope at flowing colored liquids for inspiration.
It all coalesces into a hypnotic viewing experience that also says a lot about human behavior in the face of inexorable, fatal destiny. The movie isn’t completely gloom and doom, though; there are moments of levity in Jane’s eccentric mannerisms and Susan’s obsession with discussing the sex habits of dolphins, and darker humor in Amy’s fixation on having her skin turned into a leather coat once she’s gone. It’s all delivered with unerring performances by a cast including many of Seimetz’s past collaborators on the independent/horror scene, including Sheil and Kentucker Audley (her co-stars in Ti West’s THE SACRAMENT), the latter of whom is seen in flashbacks as Amy’s boyfriend in more positive times. Adam Wingard, for whom Seimetz acted in A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE and YOU’RE NEXT, even turns up in a small role, and Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, whose own films like RESOLUTION and THE ENDLESS sometimes deal with similar ideas in more concrete genre terms, were part of the SHE DIES TOMORROW producing team. All this talent has come together to bring Seimetz’s very singular vision to life in a way that’s hard to look away from, and equally hard to shake.