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REVIEW | Amy Seimetz’s She Dies Tomorrow

Intimations of mortality go from dread to contagion

Do you ever feel like the sky is falling? It’s all about to it? The darkness is gathering? Call it 2020 vision if you like. If the answer is “all of the above”, then Amy Seimetz’s debut movie She Dies Tomorrow is going to be right up your apocalyptic alley. Kate Lyn Sheil stars as Amy, a young woman who wakes up one morning convinced that she is going to die the following day. Her friend Jane (Jane Adams) tries to comfort her and fears that she is relapsing into substance abuse but soon the idea of imminent death begins to spread.

 She dies tomorrow
A scene from She dies tomorrow

Seimetz’s film is the kind of intelligent high concept horror that has occasionally been tagged with the controversial label ‘elevated horror’. This condescension rubs many horror fans up the wrong way – of course horror can be clever! – but there is a new hybrid film which is creeping out of a location somewhere between arthouse cinema and the dripping vaults of horror. Filmmakers such as Ari Aster, Jordan Peele and Robert Eggers have pushed at the boundaries and expanded the genre. Amy Seimetz can certainly add her name to the roll call.

she dies tomorrow
A scene from the movie

The mystery as to what is causing the phenomenon is not explicitly resolved or explained. Coloured lights appear intermittently. Is this a world wide event or is Amy spreading it like a virus? The concerns of the films – relationships, substance abuse, family problems – feel like a straight drama could have been made with the same cast and a tweak of the script. The naturalistic acting style gives the same impression. This might well be the first mumblecore horror.

Kate Sheil in She Dies Tomorrow

What also makes the film fascinating is how the apocalypse spreads out into the lives of others. A birthday party is interrupted, but soon regular animosities are set aside as the new situation gives what Spinal Tap might have described as ‘too much fucking perspective’. It’s also fascinating to see how different people react in different ways. Ultimately, the film presents a huge ‘what if?’ What if you were going to die tomorrow? There would be horror, grief, denial … all of that. But would there also be relief? Honesty? Even a sense of finally living in the moment? Joy?

she dies tomorrow
A scene from the movie

It reminded me of my reaction when I watched the HBO series The Leftovers – if you haven’t seen it stop reading this right now and watch it. What strikes me as similar is that both this film and that show start off with a metaphor as a way of talking about grief and loss, and thinking about death. But by the end the metaphor has become the thing itself. Ultimately, we all die tomorrow and if the thought is terrifying, it should also be exhilarating.

She Dies Tomorrow is available VOD from 28th August.

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