She Dies Tomorrow is the sophomore feature from prolific actress Amy Seimetz. And, as befitting someone whose eclectic career has encompassed the likes of You’re Next, Lean on Pete, and the ghastly Pet Sematary remake, among many, many others, it defies easy classification. Seimetz’s film is a slow release of pent-up energy, a tone poem about the delicate, fleeting nature of life and a proudly, defiantly female story of acceptance amidst increasingly odd circumstances.
The screenplay, also penned by Seimetz, is sparse, offering little clues here and there about the central thesis. The ostensible lead is Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil, who also featured in You’re Next, as well as the director’s previous feature, Sun Don’t Shine) a young woman whose life, by all accounts, appears to be going pretty well. She’s just bought a new house and is settling in when, all of a sudden, Amy realizes her death is imminent. A quietly desperate call to her friend Jane (Jane Adams) muddies the waters as Amy refuses to watch a movie to distract herself because it’s going to take too much time.
Instead, she puts on her favorite sparkly dress, plays her favorite song on repeat, and drifts listlessly around the house. When a worried Jane visits her, Amy explains she wants to “be useful in death.” Jane assumes Amy is talking gibberish due to a recent relapse, since she’s drinking heavily, but something deeper is clearly going on; Amy is actively trying to stop herself from breaking down. Later, Jane adopts the same curious affect, informing everyone she comes into contact with that she’s going to die and that’s that. Far from being afraid, Amy and Jane are freed by their newfound knowledge.
Death spreads like a curse, or a contagion, in She Dies Tomorrow, which gives the film a bizarrely topical feel. It’s hyper-stylized, almost dreamlike in its execution, Jay Keitel’s woozy cinematography complementing the atmosphere. The idea that death is coming being treated as freeing rather than paralyzing means the film isn’t bogged down by pessimism, though it’s arguably a bad feel movie regardless. There are moments of levity, such as the phone-calls between Amy and Jane, during one of which Jane deadpans that she broke into her friend’s house, while a couple of stoners also supply fleeting laughs.
One of those stoners is played by Michelle Rodriguez, who also suffers the indignity of having blood dripped onto her perfect abs. It’s nice to see the actress outside of the Fast & Furious franchise, and gifted a meaty monologue to deliver. We forget she’s actually a decent performer outside of just playing Letty. Likewise, the other big name on the cast-list, Chris Messina, impresses in a small but weighty role. Meanwhile, horror icon Adam Wingard (who directed Seimetz in You’re Next) has fun in a cameo appearance as a dune buggy operator who has a brief dalliance with Amy.
Sheil, who looks like the lost Haim sister, gives a considered performance as Amy. I can empathise with her relapse, since I’d probably start drinking again if I found out I only had 24 hours to live. Flashbacks flesh out how she got to the point where She Dies Tomorrow picks up with her, but the character remains a bit of a cypher, right up until the film’s spooky closing moments. Seimetz isn’t interested in filling in the blanks for us, and has clearly asked her performers to behave likewise, which adds to her film’s enveloping feelings of sadness and regret.
It’s uniquely female-focused, right down to the styling, artfully shot and conceived, with a trippy, surreal, ethereal bent that takes some time to get used to. The score by Mondo Boys is emotionally charged and resonant, eloquently matching the dreamy visuals. Seimetz herself has an odd, unique voice that’s on full display here. She Dies Tomorrow requires patience and your full attention. Sometimes, you might even have to strain to hear the dialogue, but it’s a rewarding watch if you stick with it. Regardless of what you think it’s really about (and there will surely be some debate about the film’s deeper meaning), Seimetz’s sophomore effort is an absorbing experience that showcases a fascinating new voice in horror.
Catch She Dies Tomorrow in Drive-In Theaters from July 31, 2020 and On Demand from August 7, 2020
WICKED RATING: 7/10
Director(s): Amy Seimetz
Writer(s): Amy Seimetz
Stars: Kate Lyn Sheil, Michelle Rodriguez, Chris Messina, Jane Adams
Release date: July 31, 2020 (Drive-in theaters), August 7, 2020 (On Demand)
Studio/Production Company: Rustic Films
Run Time: 84 minutes