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Review: Despite artistic value ‘She Dies Tomorrow’ falls short

Writer-director Amy Seimetz raises more questions than she answers in “She Dies Tomorrow.” (Photo courtesy of Neon)

After years of starring in horror films, actor-turned-writer-director Amy Seimetz has once again stepped behind the lens to deliver her sophomore effort – and to no one’s surprise, it’s a horror film, too. In “She Dies Tomorrow” Seimetz has created a melancholic piece of art, with bold strokes and uncompromising vision that provides a raw and palpable look at fear and coming to terms with death. Whether that’s a good thing or not is for you to decide while watching.

Originally set to debut at the 2020 SXSW film festival in March prior to the pandemic, “She Dies Tomorrow” has now pivoted to a hybrid release, hitting select drive-in theaters July 31, before releasing on VOD platforms August 7.

Kate Lyn Sheil as Amy in “She Dies Tomorrow.” (Photo courtesy of Neon)

Have you ever felt an overwhelming sense of bad vibes? Knowing, in the pit of your stomach, that something is very wrong. That’s the feeling analyzed in the film, so if that makes you uncomfortable, tread lightly.

For Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil), it’s this very feeling that overcomes her and takes over her life. We are introduced to her as she wanders around her house, wine glass in hand, passing boxes still full from a recent move and having cryptic phone conversations filled with ennui. From the outside, one might see a woman in the middle of some sort of midlife crisis, unsure of how to move forward with an obvious new start. The film takes its time showing the mundane, often confusing actions of Amy until it becomes clear to both her and the audience, that she believes she is going to die. Not in a moody, “I’m having a bad day” way, though, but in a way that she actually knows to her core that she is going to die tomorrow.

If you were hoping for a race against the clock drama about fending off death, you’ll be sorely disappointed here. Instead, once Amy is sure of what will happen, we watch her explore the varied emotions associated with such knowledge – fear, anger, and, eventually, acceptance. Her friend Jane (Jane Adams), attributes these feelings to her “falling off the wagon,” a bit of information of which we were previously unaware. Could Amy’s struggles with alcohol have led to this episode? Unfortunately, we will never know. Amy relays to Jane that she knows she will die tomorrow, while Jane brushes the comments off as depression. But as Jane goes home, she finds herself feeling the exact same way – knowing that death is coming for her. It looks like Amy’s worst fear has become contagious.

Jane Adams as Jane and Chris Messina as Jason in “She Dies Tomorrow.” (Photo courtesy of Neon)

This ominous revelation begins to spread, as Jane heads to her brother’s (Chris Messina) house where his wife Susan (Katie Aselton) is hosting a small birthday party. Jane begins to unload her dread onto her brother and his guests (Tunde Adebimpe and Jennifer Kim), leaving them unnerved and Susan furious. But one by one, that dread creeps into everyone’s head.

The film does a nice job at setting the right mood, and that tone is felt throughout, no matter who is capturing the focus on screen. Unfortunately, that particular tone is only compelling for about 15 minutes before it wears thin and becomes boring. Tackling existential dread and its effect on humanity is especially prescient right now, so at least the timing is impeccable.

The natural questions that arise while watching “She Dies Tomorrow” are not the questions Seimetz is interested in answering, which leaves a lot to be desired. There is no mystery to solve. There is no resolution to the terror. We simply watch as this wave of anxiety and fear spread from person to person, without any silver lining or ray of hope. It’s just death.

Although expertly crafted and executed, “She Dies Tomorrow” is definitely an art film – and one that is abrasive and befuddling at that. The slow-burning story and inconsistent pacing are irritating, and when paired with such a bleak outlook, it makes this film one you can skip.

Star Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

“She Dies Tomorrow” is screening at select drive-in theaters and will be available to rent on VOD services beginning August 7, 2020.

Joel Winstead View All

Film critic and member of the North Carolina Film Critic Association.

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