By Bianca Garner
“She Dies Tomorrow” is a horror film like nothing else you’ll see this year. With no word of a lie, you will either fall into two camps after watching this film, meaning you’ll either love it or you will hate it. It’s that type of film which will either bore you to tears (tears of frustration or rage) or it’ll leave you dizzy and intoxicated by its surreal, haunting beauty. Looking online at the audience scores and reviews, “She Dies Tomorrow” seems to have frustrated many regular viewers (basically anyone who isn’t a film critic), and this is understandable. The film marketed as a straightforward ‘ordinary’ horror flick, but there’s nothing straightforward nor ordinary about “She Dies Tomorrow”. If anything, the film and its reaction sums up the bizarre and surreal world we find ourselves in. You either belong to one side of the spectrum, there is no middle ground. You’re either on the side of the film critic or you’re against them.
Like the strange political climate we’re in, the world of film reviewing and spectatorship has become divided. Examining the recent releases of 2020, certified fresh films like “First Cow”, “Shirley”, and “The Assistant” have all received terribly low audience scores. I suspect when the audience scores come in for “She Dies Tomorrow” they will most likely be low too. There’s numerous reasons why these critically acclaimed films aren’t resonating with viewers outside the world of film criticism and perhaps I will explore this in greater depth one day.
However, I think a lot of it has to do with the current state of the world. These films are slow, moody, lack action and can be very alienating for the viewer. There’s something to be said about the films that have been released in 2020, they haven’t exactly been the “pure escapism” that I think we have all been craving recently. In their own way, I have enjoyed each of the films mentioned, but do I have any desire to sit through “The Assistant” or “Shirley” again in the near future? In all honesty, no. Those films were brilliantly crafted and well made, but they weren’t exactly fun, mindless entertainment with bright, colourful worlds that I could lose myself in. Life is shit, I get it. It’s shit for many, many people. Sometimes, I just want films that help me forget how shit life is. And, there’s nothing wrong in wanting that.
“She Dies Tomorrow” is a horror film like nothing else you’ll see this year…If anything, the film and its reaction sums up the bizarre and surreal world we find ourselves in.”
None of this really has anything to do with “She Dies Tomorrow” and I will get to my ‘review’ in just a bit, but I just wanted to express my reasoning behind this review. You can find Mique’s interesting take on the film elsewhere on the site, and there are elements of his review I agree with. He states that the film is “ virtually inaccessible”, which I disagree with and agree with at the same time…I think that’s kind of the point of the film, we are meant to feel as disconnected from reality as the characters are in the film. Right now, everyone is angry, frustrated and depressed…just like the characters in “She Dies Tomorrow”. We have all become empty shells in a way, fake projections of how we think we should act, behave and think…wandering around aimlessly.
The plot of “She Dies Tomorrow” is based around the concept of depression spreading from one host to another like an infection. In a lot of ways the film reminded me of “It Follows”, we can’t see the ‘monster’ but we can feel its effect on our psyches. I have always found this concept fascinating especially being someone who has suffered from depression and has several family members who also suffer from depression and other mental health conditions. The idea of something invisible and devastating being passed on like the common cold or COVID-19 is truly nightmarish to me. And the fact that we never discover why this infection is occurring or how many people are infected is another interesting element of the film that I enjoyed. In reality, we may never discover the root cause of infectious viruses like COVID-19, we may never recover fully from depression and we may always remain divided.
“It felt like Amy Seimetz had somehow captured all my anxieties, fears and insecurities rattling around in my skull and had blown them up on the big-screen for the entire world to see.”
It’s not just the concept of the film which resonated with me. The film’s cinematography by Jay Keitel, its editing by Kate Brokaw and score by Mondo Boys all helped to reinforce that feeling of helplessness, anxiety and dread. Each time the camera prowled around the character of Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) I felt a shiver run down my spine. I can’t tell you the countless times I have been struck by the feeling that someone or something is watching me. It felt like Amy Seimetz had somehow captured all my anxieties, fears and insecurities rattling around in my skull and had blown them up on the big-screen for the entire world to see. Unless you’ve had to endure depression yourself, it’s very hard to describe it to someone else. It’s more than simply ‘feeling blue’; it’s like living in your own horror film 24/7, 365 days of the year. Inescapable.
Apparently, Seimetz came up with the idea for the script after noticing how people reacted to her sharing her stories of anxiety attacks. I have always loved it when directors make personal films, when they inject something about their own life experiences and personality into their art. And, Seimetz has managed to do this with her picture.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, she stated, ““I was dealing with a lot of anxiety and in lots of therapy, and I was trying to drill down into what and why. And essentially, when you have anxiety, your body or your brain is like, ‘I need to solve this right now.’ And then I asked, ‘Why do I need to solve this right now?’ And I realized: because I’m going to die at some point. So, I wanted to make something that was dealing with what my current situation was and not wait for it to be developed. I wanted to make something independent and go back to my roots as an independent filmmaker.”
With “She Dies Tomorrow” I felt a connection not only to the characters but to the director too. And, in a way I felt reassured that I am not alone with all the anxieties I have felt in the past and what I am currently enduring. There are others out there who have been through it all too and we should be able to express our experiences and emotions freely. At the same time, I can understand why people have rejected the film (as well as others mentioned in this piece). Surely, we can come with some form of balance. We can have films like “She Dies Tomorrow” that remind us of how grim life really is, but we need other films to remind us of the beauty and wonder of the world. You may die tomorrow, but it’s about living in the present that really matters.
P.S. By the way, my score for the film is between 4 and 3.5 stars, depending on what mood I’m in. I do feel compelled to watch it again and I think it’s trying to explore an interesting concept. Whether or not it’ll hold up on a second viewing…Well, we’ll just have to see.