'She Dies Tomorrow' Is the Anxiety-Inducing New Viral Thriller That Couldn't Feel More Relevant
The absolute must-see movie was made before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but proves immensely timely.
When She Dies Tomorrow splashes Kate Lyn Sheil's face across the screen, then bathes it in neon flashes of pink, blue, red and purple, it isn't easily forgotten. It's a vivid, visceral, even psychedelic sight, which filmmaker Amy Seimetz lingers on, forcing her audience to do the same as well. Viewers aren't just soaking in trippy lights and colours, though. They're staring at the expression beneath the multi-hued glow, which seethes with harrowing levels of shock, fright, distress and anxiety. That's understandable; this is the look of someone who has just had the most unnerving realisation there is: that she is going to die tomorrow.
In her second stint directing a feature after 2012's Sun Don't Shine, Pet Sematary, Lean on Pete and Alien: Covenant actor Seimetz does indeed serve up a straightforward concept that's all there in the title. In She Dies Tomorrow, her protagonist — who is also called Amy (Kate Plays Christine's Sheil) — believes that her life will end the next day, plain and simple. But it's how the on-screen Amy copes with the apocalyptic news, and how it also spreads virally from person to person, that fuels the movie. Initially, she responds by searching for urns, researching how leather jackets are made and roaming aimlessly around the new home she has recently purchased, and by brushing off her worried but sceptical friend Jane (Twin Peaks' Jane Adams).
If Amy is merely being paranoid, that persecution-driven delusion soon proves contagious, with the feature's cast also including Katie Aselton (Bombshell), Chris Messina (Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)), Josh Lucas (Ford vs Ferrari), Tunde Adebimpe (Marriage Story) and Jennifer Kim (Mozart in the Jungle). Among of the joys of She Dies Tomorrow is that it's never one for obvious or easy answers, or for explaining any more than it needs to. Indeed, how it morphs from exploring one woman's fears to cataloguing a shared nightmare that spreads like a pandemic is best discovered by watching; however Seimetz crafts a gloriously smart and unsettling thriller that toys with surreal Lynchian moments yet always feels disarmingly astute. The film was made prior to COVID-19 and was originally slated to premiere at this year's cancelled SXSW, so it pre-dates our coronavirus-afflicted world — but it's hard not to think of the real-life parallels.
Earning ample buzz when it surfaced in the US in July, currently available to stream in Australia until Sunday, August 23 as a late addition to this year's online Melbourne International Film Festival, and hitting local video-on-demand platforms on Wednesday, September 2, She Dies Tomorrow isn't afraid to think big, tackle a difficult topic or do so in a thoroughly disquieting manner. Interrogating the messy horror that comes with knowing you'll die isn't easy, after all, and the film evocatively conveys that sensation. This is a movie that doesn't just want its audience to passively peer on as characters grapple with the possibility that their life is about to be cut short, but one determined to ensure that viewers feel as uncertain, anguished and chaotic as everyone on-screen. With her tension-dripping images, and a score by Mondo Boys that's equally bold, operatic and needling, Seimetz wholeheartedly achieves that aim.
In the process, the writer/director ponders humanity's reaction to life-shattering news both on an individual and collective basis, the way that panic and doubt spreads oh-so-quickly, and how one idea can soon overtake entire communities. They're all very relevant notions at present, as is the idea of living every day as if there is no future, which the feature overtly, cleverly and even humorously toys with. But most perceptive here is how She Dies Tomorrow reflects the recognisable reality of passing each and every second with the knowledge that one day you'll no longer be alive. That's a situation we're all in, and that we all generally do our best to overlook as much as we can — and it's downright impossible to ignore here. She Dies Tomorrow also doubles as a moving exploration of confronting your mortality on a tangible and immediate level, too; forget the weepy schmaltz of stereotypical terminal illnesses dramas, because this haunting film couldn't be steeped any deeper in existential terror.
She Dies Tomorrow is currently available to stream online in Australia as part of MIFF 68 1/2, the Melbourne International Film Festival's 2020 online festival, until Sunday, August 23. It'll also be available to watch digitally via iTunes, Google Play, Amazon and other video-on-demand platforms from Wednesday, September 2, and via DVD then as well.
Published on August 20, 2020 by Sarah Ward