There are really only two possible reactions to She Dies Tomorrow. One is to be maddened by its mysterious nature; the other is to be mesmerized by it. I definitely fell into the second category. It takes some time to figure out what the film is saying and what all the pieces mean, and even then you don't walk away with anything concrete. That's why it's so special. You can debate and discuss the movie with others afterward. The title makes it sound like a horror film, and to a degree it is. Writer/director Amy Seimetz isn't concerned with jump scares, though. She crafts ideas that are unnerving and steeped in dread, then lets you soak in them for eighty-four minutes.
The story begins with a woman named Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil). She's at home alone, where she drinks and repeatedly plays the same record over and over. Something is clearly wrong, based on her depressive behavior. Eventually friend Jane (Jane Adams) comes over. Amy says that she's going to die the next day, which is why she feels so down. Jane scoffs at the suggestion, chalking it up to the booze. Then the film starts to follow her for a while and – what do you know? – Jane becomes convinced that she's going to die. Things roll from there as the belief continues to spread.
Seimetz visualizes what the characters experience through red and blue flashing lights and off-screen whispers. That's the cue that whomever we're watching has been struck by the vision of impending demise. (People with sensitivity to flashing should proceed with caution, as one especially spooky scene goes on for a long time.) Part of the movie's entertainment value comes from trying to guess who will fall victim to it next. At one point, we're led to think it will be one specific person, but then something very unexpected happens.
Many chillers would spend time explaining what causes the vision, or how the characters attempt to get rid of it. She Dies Tomorrow has no interest in any of that. This isn't a story about “why,” but rather about how people react to the notion of death. Most of us have a fear of dying at some level or another. We push thoughts of our mortality aside because it would be impossible to function otherwise. But have you ever had one of those moments where you did think about it a little too long and then got totally freaked out? The story asks you to envision not being able to get rid of that.
She Dies Tomorrow might sound depressing. Rest assured, it's not. Seimetz infuses the film with a streak of dark humor. Whereas Amy's paranoia is played for horror, other characters have a slightly more comedic reaction. That feels appropriate, since we all react to the certainty of death in different ways. I love how the film plays like a contagion thriller, except instead of a virus, the spreadable element is a fear that ingrains itself into the heads of the characters and won't leave.
Sheil and Adams are pitch-perfect in their roles, and the film has strong supporting performances from Josh Lucas (as a doctor), Chris Messina (as Jane's brother), and Michelle Rodriguez (as...well, wait and see). She Dies Tomorrow is the kind of picture you have to continually interpret. Calling it “easily accessible” wouldn't be accurate. Adventurous, inventive, ambitious – those are all much better descriptors. She Dies Tomorrow was made for viewers who crave heavy atmosphere and a story that will challenge them. Even if it could have used a tiny bit more closure at the end, I thoroughly enjoyed taking the twisted ride this great big anxiety attack of a movie offers.
out of four
She Dies Tomorrow is rated R for language, some sexual references, drug use and bloody images. The running time is 1 hour and 24 minutes.