Amy Seimetz’s new visionary story, She Dies Tomorrow, is nothing less enigmatic than her previous foray, Sun Don’t Shine (2012). The baffling narrative comes together as if she’s still co-starring in Shane Carruth’s similarly mystifying feature, Upstream Color—an anxiety inducing sci-fi that feels like a psychotic dream. It is a film that focuses on an unknown fear which immediately crawls upon your skin and never lets you go as it becomes more baffling as it goes. With this, Seimetz showcases her bold and original storytelling prowess almost mercilessly.
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She Dies Tomorrow starts without exposition. We only soon learn that the protagonist, Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil), a former alcoholic, just moves to a new house. And yet, nothing is quite right about her. She’s been browsing for antique urns on the internet and acting weird for as long as the camera observes. In a matter of minutes, we’ll listen to a haunting rendition of Lacrimosa from Mozart’s Requiem for several times on repeat. When her friend, Jane (Jane Adams), talks on the phone and finally visits, Amy explains that she’s convinced she will be dying by tomorrow. Jane quickly disregards it and comes into conclusion that Amy might have her alcoholic state relapses. Unbeknownst to Jane, she will later be consumed with the same fear of dying tomorrow. In no time, Jane will then infect other people she’s been intimately connected with the very same fear, be it friends, families, or her personal doctor.
Seimetz, who also writes the screenplay, doesn’t bother to go beyond what appears on screen. The origin of the infectious fear of dying in the next 24 hours has never been explored nor questioned. There’s a flashback near the end, but the movie only adds more contexts to the protagonist, but not the phenomenon. If Amy’s bizarre home playlist isn’t setting the haunting tone; Jane’s communication with bacteria she observes under microscope might visualize the bizarreness quite blatantly. There’s a red thread between She Dies Tomorrow and David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows; while Mitchell’s sinister, contagious force is manifested in ghastly figures, Seimetz’s vision for the malicious force is simply abstract. It floats in the air as an idea—invisible but palpable.
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The fear is often manifested in spoken words and erratic yet subtle behavior. Sometimes, it’s visualized with neon lights bathing characters’ face as they stare blankly as if their gaze transcends the camera. Lyn Sheil’s harrowing performance leads us deep into total pondering of the infectious disease; but, when it comes to making sense of the story, her character is just as clueless as we are. The notion that 2020 has been a stranger-than-fiction year helps us to partially decipher the idea as we have been fighting an invisible foe as well. Our inability to conjure up with a visual representation of the threat has prompted our subconscious mind to project them with sensations that remind us to feverish dream. If anything, the whole She Dies Tomorrow experience is no different with 2020 itself.
In the end, Amy Seimetz’s vision of an infectious disease—that probes fear (or maybe certainty, not really sure) of dying tomorrow is in the no-man’s land between ridiculous and scary. Is it a self-mockery to the strange year or is it a proverbial look to anxiety attack? Is it an allegory or is it a straightforward psychological horror? She Dies Tomorrow provides no answer; it leaves every question with an open-ended reflection instead.