She Dies Tomorrow (CREDIT: NEON)

Starring: Kate Lyn Sheil, Jane Adams, Kentucker Audley, Chris Messina, Katie Aselton, Tunde Adebimpe

Director: Amy Seimetz

Running Time: 84 Minutes

Rating: R for Sexual and Drug-Fueled Weirdness

Release Date: July 31, 2020 (Drive-In Theaters)/August 7, 2020 (On Demand)

It’s hard to get your bearings straight when watching a movie like She Dies Tomorrow. The main characters have a profound lack of charisma, the protagonist seems to keep changing before any sort of story arc has been completed, and the tone and genre are more or less impossible to pin down. There’s an early scene in which initial protagonist Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) plays a recording of Mozart’s Lacrimosa over and over to the point that it feels like the film is skipping and repeating. This is all part and parcel of the premise, in which people are overcome by a contagious feeling in which they are convinced that they will no longer be alive come the next day. Weirdly, this doesn’t result in despair so much as a strikingly unique form of negatively focused enrapturement.

I’ve read other reviews of She Dies Tomorrow that describe it as scary in an existential sort of way, though not really a horror movie. But I’m not sure how else to categorize it. It may not be populated by goblins or ghouls, but a persistent sense of ennui crossed with enveloping paranoia sounds to me like just about the most terrifying thing anyone could possibly conceive of. It didn’t exactly feel that way while watching it, though, at least not the whole way through. The illness at the heart of the film is so low-key that the people who aren’t yet infected with it react to those who are mostly as they would to annoying social behavior. At those moments, it feels like a purposely off-putting comedy of manners. But now that I’ve had some room to process everything, I am struck more fully by the loneliness and miscommunication infused throughout.

Director Amy Seimetz works prolifically on both sides of the camera, and she has a tendency to pop up in blockbuster fare like Alien: Covenant and more straightforward horror pics like You’re Next. The budget for She Dies Tomorrow came from the paycheck she earned for acting in last year’s Pet Sematary remake, and this is definitely the work of someone confidently following her own particular muse with the financial freedom to do so. What we’re talking about here is a creator making an appeal for human connection via cinema, and I’m willing to answer the call.

She Dies Tomorrow is Recommended If You Like: Upstream Color, Jean Paul Sartre

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Requiems