“She Dies Tomorrow” (2020)
Running time: 84 minutes
Written and directed by: Amy Seimetz
Featuring: Kate Lyn Sheil, Jane Adams, Kentucker Audley, Katie Aselton, Chris Messina, Tunde Adebimpe, Jennifer Kim, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Michelle Rodriguez, Josh Lucas and Adam Wingard
Jane: “Humans are the only animal or creature that pretends to be what it’s not.”
Released this week on DVD is the drama/horror “She Dies Tomorrow” (2020), written and directed by Amy Seimetz, a movie that is as original as one can get within the horror genre, which is saying something considering how bloated this milieu has become over the past fifteen years. Seimetz, although known popularly as an actress has carved out a niche as a director of both television as well as three films, each getting progressively more confident and meaningful than the previous. It does not hurt that she can call on a number of high profile acquaintances to appear in her movies thereby giving them a hint of authenticity as well as a profile others might not be able to get in a crowded marketplace.
I have made the point before but the past ten years has been a bonanza for genre movies, especially horror, not only does there seem to be more being produced than ever before, especially with the advent of cheap film making equipment, more quality filmmakers entering the genre as well as more production companies realising there is money to be made, especially with the increase in online streaming services. This is where Jason Blum and his Blumhouse production company has entered the market finding a cost/revenue model that works for them, partnering with a major distribution partner in Universal and not limiting itself to theatrical projects, but also partnering with Netflix. What we have with “She Dies Tomorrow” however is something that is becoming rarer and rarer, that is a non Blumhouse or Netflix horror movie that makes an impact, is original and is directed by a woman that attempts to make social commentary through genre tropes, bending them and defying conventions in a very good way.
“She Dies Tomorrow” is based around Amy a young woman who has recently purchased a house, and is congratulated over the phone by her friend Jane. When she visits, Amy reveals to Jane that she knows she is going to die the next day, which Jane initially writes off as a result of Amy consuming alcohol. Amy repeatedly says that she wants to be turned into a leather jacket after she dies, so she could be made into something of use. Jane leaves, telling her she will call the next day. Jane returns to her house to continue studying samples under a microscope, but suddenly becomes paranoid and rushes to Amy’s house, leaving several voice messages but being unable to contact her. She then leaves to go to her sister in law’s birthday party.At the party, Jane appears disheveled, confusing the other guests and disturbing them by saying she, too, is going to die tomorrow. This actually reads a little like the low budget but effective horror “Pontypool” (2008) that works on a similar conceit although far less personal.
The movie has its influences which the filmmaker uses to their obvious conclusions, there is a varied color palette that changes as the characters get lost in their own world views and ‘infections’ which come into view when we realise what is happening with the contagion being actually quite easy, not too dissimilar to a certain disease sweeping the world currently. Seimetz directs this movie with a small budget but like many modern independent movies this has a feel, look and screenplay that is extremely tight and well honed.
“She Dies Tomorrow” has a huge list of great character actors that all know what kind of movie they are appearing in and obviously know how to adjust their onscreen personas to give the director what she wants which is a challenge especially when some are supposed to be feeling the effects of the spell they are under. It is fun seeing some of these actors playing parts outside their wheelhouses, at once familiar but different as they serve the vision of the screenplay which is different to what they normally appear in, that is high budget broad genre movies that millions will watch as opposed to movie that is a sub genre movie at best.
I actually recommend this movie highly as one of those horror movies that transcends its genre, sure it may come across like an independent thriller but it is much more than that. The horror elements exist but very subtly in the same way a Lars von Trier movie might, all drama and tension but with definite horror credentials. It is also a break to have a true female directed horror movie that is not a remake, reboot or a sequel, something it seems only independent cinema is able to accomplish.