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If there’s one thing we could all use right now, it’s more worry about death and an increased fear of other people, right?
Writer/director Amy Seimetz didn’t create COVID-19. Probably… But her new film, She Dies Tomorrow, is so impossibly well-timed that a conspiracy theory with her at its center would be far more believable than at least a third of what’s on Twitter.
The hallucinatory, often humorous, indie horror film is destined to piss off about half of all the people who watch it. Quiet, absurd, and intentionally vague, She Dies Tomorrow is a big bucket of fucking brilliant. That’s not a question. Whether or not this steaming brew of genius is your particular cup of tea depends entirely on whether or not you prefer decaf or an extra shot of existential dread.
Unlike elected officials, She Dies Tomorrow’s title is not lying to you. Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) suddenly becomes convinced she’s going to kick it with the grim reaper manana. That’s fine. People have bad ideas all the time, just look at people going to bars right now. What’s weird is that when Amy tells Jane (Jane Adams) about her impending doom, Jane “catches” that same idea.
That’s right, this is a film about dangerous thoughts about death that are contagious, leading people to do selfish, awful things. Sound familiar at all? It is, in some ways, the most sincerely perfect concept for a horror flick ever dreamed up.
If you’re expecting answers about how the paranoia pandemic got started or the logistics of what it means on a large scale, you’re gonna loathe this shit. If you’re on board for a trippy meditation about mortality and the thinly veiled ugliness that hides inside of so many people, buckle up buttercup.
She Dies Tomorrow is everything people lied and said It Follows was. Tight, thrilling, and unafraid to wade into weird waters, the film is frequently and purposefully laugh-out-loud funny. Things that are terrifying in a legitimately profound way skitter a tightrope between panic and parody. Isn’t that right, Ari Aster? In only her second feature-length film, Seimetz shows the abject fearlessness needed to bravely walk that line.
Seimetz’s cinematic sleight of hand encourages viewers to fill in giant, gaping holes in the narrative. It never feels confusing, even if so much of it is suggestion and speculation rather than explicit storytelling. What it invites audiences to think about spastically flips between ugly and beautiful, making it the most authentic reflection on death in ages.
Thinking about dying in the middle of a pandemic is every bit as upsetting as it is inevitable. She Dies Tomorrow offers a new way into those inescapable thoughts. In a weird way, it offers as much comfort as distress, with an abstract final scene that will haunt fans and possibly induce eye-roll-related injuries in others. That’s good art right there.
She Dies Tomorrow is a perfect film, not just for the moment, but full fucking stop.
Grade = A+
Other Critical Voices to Consider
A preface this time: You know something is incredible when the reviews for the movie are almost as captivating as the movie itself. These “takes” are goooood, y’all.
- Leigh Monson of What to Watch doesn’t dismiss the movie, but she does see it as “wasted potential,” saying “It’s a narrative without purpose or pathos, propelled solely by apprehensive feelings to the point of self-reflexive redundancy.”
- Robert Daniels of 812 Film Reviews says the film is transcendent, arguing “the indie excels beyond the region, the soil, the clime of the pandemic in America. Humans didn’t begin fearing death in March, nor the death of others, especially if such a perishing from the earth never touched our individual lives.”
- Deirdre Crimmins of That Shelf sees the movie as an “incredible gift,” saying “This film is a contemplation on the proliferation of dread, and giving up, and how powerful the absence or presence of hope can be.”