Review: She Dies Tomorrow – Tedious Journey of Existentialism

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Lacklustre

On the back of an incredibly tense trailer, Amy Seimetz's new thriller fails to meet expectations and instead lacks both force and vigor..

  • Lacklustre
    4

American actress and director Amy Seimetz’s latest release, She Dies Tomorrow (2020), explores the exciting world of psychological horror at an unfortunately slow pace. The film follows the strange and discomforting events of lead character Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) as she moves into a new house. When Amy begins acting strangely, including oddly disturbing scenes in which she literally caresses her new wooden floor, we soon learn that there is much more going on in her troubled head including the fact she is a recently recovering alcoholic with an impeding fear of death.

The film is alike Seimetz’s last independent thriller Sun Don’t Shine (2012) yet differing to anthology drama series The Girlfriend Experience (2016-) which Seimetz has produced/directed as part of her foray into television work. It is clear that She Dies Tomorrow is a leap up from Seimetz’s earlier releases through both the stylistic qualities and greater focus on the creation of an atmosphere of horror. It reworks the horror genre to fit its aim of simplicity: cinematic landscape shots and quick-paced editing merge to form an aesthetic in which horror is built up yet, somehow, never reached. Even the closing minutes, where the narrative is expected to close out, feels as though something is missing with character development getting lost into a void that is never filled thanks to a sharp ending that leaves the viewer’s mind to wander. But is this a good thing? Is Seimetz aiming to instil existentialism within the viewer or explore it?

Although She Dies Tomorrow loses its grit through its dragging shots, it picks up the pace through its quirky use of notable soundtracks and its interesting secondary character Jane (Jane Adams), who stands out perfectly amongst the panic of Amy’s life as her best friend and personal saviour (it is clear Jane has helped pull Amy out of some dark times throughout their friendship). Adams acts with gut and her struggles with Amy’s ‘contagious’ existentialism becomes something that draws you into her character in a way that is lost through Amy herself.

The thought of dying tomorrow, which both Amy and those around her are subjected to feel throughout the narrative, is not an irrational fear at all. Mortality follows Amy throughout the extent of the film like it does to us every day, and amidst the COVID pandemic and the panic that has ensued, it is no surprise that Seimetz thriller – although slow and confusing – has been connected to the worldwide discussion of the ‘patient-zero’ claims. Its relevance is both its pick up and its downfall, as if She Dies Tomorrow had been released in a non-COVID landscape, it is hard to think where it would feel necessary.

The film blends the very real fear of impending doom with intriguing cinematography, but sadly fails to instil this existentialism in a way that truly consumes the audience. It will likely leave unsatisfied viewers pondering whether the last 80 minutes of their life were used to the fullest. Seimetz’s poetic and emotional expression feels lacking in both excitement and purpose, while its potentially redeeming discussions of morality are replaced with eerie but all-too-subtle shots of atmospheric dread, allowing the film’s passion to be lost alongside protagonist Amy’s mind.

She Dies Tomorrow, directed by Amy Schmetz, is available to watch on Curzon Home Cinema from the 28th of August. You can check out the trailer below. 

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third-year film student & records/live exec 20/21

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