Anxiety is a monster, especially unchecked, and Amy Seimetz’s She Dies Tomorrow is the ultimate expression of the condition as a horrific construct.
Based in no small part on Seimetz’ experiences, and funded thanks to her role in the remake of Pet Sematary, she crafts a personal, if often quite ponderous, picture. Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil), so named after Seimetz in case the autobiographical aspects are unclear, has just bought a house in Los Angeles but is crippled by a strange sense of existential dread, convinced that she will, as the title suggests, die tomorrow. Her friend Jane (Jane Adams), who calls to congratulate her, at first finds her unnerving conviction ridiculous but slowly she succumbs to the same escalating feeling of doom. Almost akin to a virus, Amy’s unshakeable belief ripples across her circle of friends and contacts before building to devastating consequences.
You might feel She Dies Tomorrow is, from this description, a low-key horror movie. It’s not. Nor is it a comedy, as has been billed. It’s neither, and both, and unable to figure out quite what it is, all rolled into one.
As someone who has suffered from anxiety, as many of you reading may indeed have done, She Dies Tomorrow frustrated.
There is something pithy and throwaway about Seimetz’s film, likely to a degree she did not intend. I don’t question the good intentions behind her picture, as someone who has plunged to the depths of irrational fear as many of the characters beyond just Amy in this film do, but nevertheless the relentless film school malaise turned a genuine psychological blockage into a flippant attempt at transforming the horror of anxiety into something tangibly ridiculous.
For me it’s a film about anxiety, and with anxiety there never really is closure. It just sort of dissipates. That’s how I wanted the film to move: expansions and contractions, and going to these extremely heightened moments and then just popping out of them. With the shot design, there’s a lot of close and intimate and very subjective realities, then popping out and realizing, “Oh, this is what it looks like to the outside world.”
The truth is, anxiety is patently absurd most for the time, especially when viewed through a rational, logical sense. People who don’t suffer from irrational fear struggle to place themselves in the mindset of someone who immediately leaps to a worst case scenario and finds it impossible to shake, or even leads to them questioning their own memory of an event that recently took place, to the point sometimes you need to retrace your steps and constantly replay said event to ensure you did not do something or say something you patently know did not happen. All of these behaviours I have exhibited, and still regularly do, to varying degrees. It is exhausting and a constant battle to overcome.
Seimetz film, to its credit, does try and externalise extreme anxiety, the crushing feeling of death as the ultimate expression of irrational thought, as a monstrous entity infecting people akin to some kind of pandemic (unintentionally appropriate right now, of course), but for me the film struggles to convey this quasi-comedic concept in a manner which either treats anxiety as a true enemy to conquer, or affords it the respect as a debilitating condition it deserves. The script feels like a bizarre, avant garde comedy sketch stretched out to eighty minutes, filled with over the top strains of Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor on repeat and near somnolent pacing that rarely conveys a sense of potent atmosphere.
There are flashes of what Seimetz could do here with a stronger script, as her visuals often spiral into a colourful array of hallucinatory moments of panic and internal chaos that are externalised, but she struggles to counterbalance these inventive directorial traits into a compelling narrative. Even for a low budget production, it feels amateurish in more than a few places, and the comedic or dramatic punches struggle to land, saying nothing about the absence of horror beyond the conceptual idea.
She Dies Tomorrow promises to be an inventive exploration of anxiety but it’s just far too indulgent and ultimately lacks depth. Amy Seimetz shows promise, however. Her next one will hopefully connect beyond the surface.
She Dies Tomorrow is available from Blue Finch Film Releasing on Curzon Home Cinema, BFI Player and Digital Download now.
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