She Dies TomorrowReviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 07/30/20 16:13:26
Amy Seimetz’s “She Dies Tomorrow” is a low-fi horror movie that seems to have everything going for it—a simple but undeniably gripping premise, strong performances across the board, a screenplay that resists succumbing to the usual gene cliches at every turn and a quietly haunting visual style that adds just the right touch of understated dread to the proceedings. And yet, while I admire it for all of those reasons, I found myself unable to really get involved with what was going on as I was watching it. The whole thing is more like an intellectual exercise and while it does work on that particular level, the end result simply left me cold and too far removed from the proceedings.The opening sequence is absolutely brilliant, however. In it, we see Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) going through what appears to be an emotional crash—a recovering alcoholic, she stumbles through her new house, still filled with unpacked boxes, drinking wine, playing opera on the stereo and looking online for leather coats. When her concerned friend Jane (Jane Adams) arrives to check on her, Amy tells her that she knows that she is going to die tomorrow. She is not suicidal, mind you, and she does not want to die—she is just consumed by an overwhelming sensation that she is going to die the next day. Seeing all the empty wine bottles lying around, Jane is convinced that Amy’s fatalistic talk is the result of standard-issue depression exacerbated by the alcohol and finally goes home.
The twist is that Amy’s sense of her impending death is somehow contagious because Jane also begins to fell the same way. At loose ends, Jane goes to the house of her brother Jason (Chris Messina), where there is a small birthday party going on for his wife, Susan (Katie Aselton). At first, Susan, who doesn’t care for Jane anyway, assumes that Jane’s talk of dying is just another pathetic attempt to gain attention but before long, she, Jason and the other two guests, Brian (Tunde Adebimpe) and his girlfriend Tilly (Jennifer Kim), are also feeling the same way. The rest of the film follows the various characters as they try to come to grips with both their impending demises and their lives in general.
As I said earlier, the opening sequence of “She Dies Tomorrow” is absolutely extraordinary to watch. The premise is brilliant and, thanks to a quirk of fate, more timely than ever and Seimetz lays it out in a smart and unique manner that finds just the right balance of the recognizable and the surreal. Sheil , who has worked with Seimetz before on the film “Sun Don’t Shine” and the cable series “The Girlfriend Experience,” always find just the right tone as she ping-pongs between terrified hysteria and a calm that is even eerier considering the circumstances. As Jane, Adams is just as impressive in presenting a character who is seen as a solid rock of sensibility as Amy’s friend and as an overly emotional kook in the eyes of her brother and his wife.
This is all great stuff—great enough that one can almost forgive the film for its undeniable shortcomings. The big problem is that after that amazing opening sequence, Seimetz doesn’t quite seem to have a firm idea of where to go with either her provocative premise or her narrative. I get the fact that she is trying to present what is essentially a horror narrative—it is essentially a riff on all those J-horror movies like the various versions of “The Ring” and “The Grudge”—without utilizing any of the expected cliches and I am certainly happy to not have to deal with any scenes in which everything is explained in one of those crushingly dull monologues like the one delivered by Simon Oakland at the end of “Psycho” (1960). The problem is that while she has removed all the overly familiar stuff, she hasn’t really replaced it with anything of note and as a result, the film devolves into a repetitive series of scenes in which the infected characters face their apparent demises in scenes that might have had more impact if we had gotten to know them in the way that we did with Amy. Some of the scenes do work—there is a nice bit in which Jane stumbles into a house and hangs out poolside with two women (Michelle Rodriguez and Olivia Taylor Dudley) who seem to be facing their own demises in a much more laid-back manner—but they only work as individual moments and don’t really come together into a cohesive whole.Now comes the part where I am supposed to tell you conclusively whether or not you should see “She Dies Tomorrow” and I still remain unsure of where I stand. The stuff that is good—the idea, the performances by Sheil and Adams, the mood of dread the Seimetz establishes early on in the proceedings and never lets slip—is really good, so good, in fact, that when the film is over, it leaves you a little resentful that the rest of it fails to measure up. In the end, I cannot quite recommend it because it never quite fulfills its potential but I don’t necessarily want to dissuade you from seeing it either because there much to it that is worth watching. However, if what I have said about has sufficiently piqued your interest enough to want to give it a chance, try to avoid putting it off until tomorrow.
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