SHE DIES TOMORROW: An Underwhelming Sophomore Feature

Amy Seimetz’s She Dies Tomorrow has, not unlike many 2020 films, had an odd history of release. Initially announced to have its world premiere at this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, a wrench was soon thrown in the gears of those plans as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing SXSW into cancellation for the first time ever. Thankfully, the independent film distributor NEON (distributor of other 2020 releases such as Josephine Decker’s psychological thriller Shirley and Max Barbakow’s smash hit Palm Springs) acquired the movie, which is now slated for a limited release at the end of the month with a VOD release planned for early August.

SHE DIES TOMORROW: An Underwhelming Sophomore Feature
Source: NEON

After a wildly intriguing trailer, it was looking like Seimetz’s sophomore film would join the ranks of other successes from the canceled SXSW festival such as Bad Trip, The King of Staten Island, and Relic. After watching it, however, I was left feeling incredibly disappointed in how the film was executed.

Tonal Imbalance

The premise of She Dies Tomorrow is fairly straightforward. Amy (played by Kate Lynn Sheil) wakes up one morning with the inescapable feeling that she is going to die the next day. She doesn’t have any proof as to why she thinks this occurrence will happen, but the feeling is there and won’t go away. Amy’s friend Jane (Jane Adams) stumbles upon her in her state of depression and attempts to talk her out of the belief of her death, but her words do nothing and ultimately backfire as Jane soon begins to feel the exact same way Amy does. Amy tells her brother Jason (Chris Messina), his family, and their friends, and you can probably assume where the story goes from there. It’s an intriguing setup, which is why it’s disappointing that the film takes a nosedive in quality as it progresses.

SHE DIES TOMORROW: An Underwhelming Sophomore Feature
Source: NEON

Undeniably one of the strongest aspects of She Dies Tomorrow is the way Seimetz builds atmosphere. She clearly has a sturdy grasp of how isolation within the frame contributes to a certain disconnection designed to make the viewer feel uncomfortable. From the opening frame, the movie exhibits a strong sense of detachment that permeates each following scene, which is why it’s a shame that the film can’t seem to keep a consistent thematic balance for the next hour and twenty minutes. Throughout the runtime, I was never really able to pinpoint exactly why the film went about executing its narrative elements the way that it did.

The movie soon reveals itself as a commentary on many things, most prominently the way dread and discomfort spread quickly among individuals, almost like a virus. As such, it feels very timely during the current COVID-19 pandemic, but that isn’t nearly enough to save it from its largest flaws, not the least of which is its muddled tone. I’ll restate that it’s very hard to put a finger on what specifically the film was trying to accomplish in terms of its tone, especially as a result of the script constantly flip-flopping between surreal horror and awkward comedy.

Fantastic Performances

The true saving grace of She Dies Tomorrow (and what ultimately serves as the backbone of the film) are its performances. Even when the script isn’t quite delivering on everything it seemingly sets out to accomplish, the cast is giving it their all and operating at an incredibly high caliber that hoists the film up. Every single cast member delivers their lines wonderfully, conveying a grounded sense of anxiety and unease wit perfection and contributing to the overall unique (while, at times, lackluster) atmosphere. Despite not being given enough time in the lives of these characters to really feel anything for them, there’s still a solid amount of immersive material to their respective arcs that only makes me wish there was more time spent establishing their emotional attachments in order to enable the viewer to feel any semblance of sentiment towards them.

SHE DIES TOMORROW: An Underwhelming Sophomore Feature
Source: NEON

The themes on display here are just simply not nearly enough to justify a full-length film, at least not when executed in this particular manner. I appreciate was Seimetz was going for, but I can’t help but feel that this could’ve worked better as an experimental short film. If it really had to be feature-length, it should have definitely leaned more into its surreal elements, which act as their own tool and could’ve really served a more unique purpose had they been utilized more thoroughly.

Conclusion: She Dies Tomorrow

At the end of the day, timeliness and coincidence simply aren’t enough to save a film that unfortunately already suffered from a weak script, one sadly lacking in any sense of articulate character development, the kind necessary to properly craft a story like this. The idea behind this film is certainly interesting, and Seimetz clearly knows what she’s doing, which is why it’s so disappointing to see this movie fall victim to such avoidable flaws in its conception. Hopefully, this film will find its audience because it’s certainly deserving of praise from people who can dearly connect with the story more than I myself did. We need more voices in the industry like Seimetz, ones who are willing to push boundaries and break genre conventions even if not everything ties together coherently. It was undeniably ambitious and fascinating enough to sustain my attention, but not nearly to the degree other modern horror films have been.

What did you think of Seimetz’s film? Let us know in the comments!

She Dies Tomorrow opens in limited release on July 31, followed by a VOD release on August 7.

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