Synopsis: A woman’s conviction that she will die tomorrow spreads like a contagion through a town.
Stars: Kate Lyn Sheil, Jane Adams, Kentucker Audley, Katie Aselton, Chris Messina, Tunde Adebimpe, Jennifer Kim, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Michelle Rodriguez, Josh Lucas, Adam Wingard
Director: Amy Seimetz
Running Length: 84 minutes
TMMM Score: (1/10)
Review: In theater, there are a number of urban legends about productions or performances that were so bad the audience began to turn on the actors onstage. There is the long-held rumor (that I don’t quite believe) of the matinee crowd attempting to sing above Sheena Easton in a Broadway production of Man of La Mancha to overcome her off key warbling. The granddaddy of them all, though, is the tale meant to send a shiver down the spine of every theater nerd that dared overact and provide hearty laughter to everyone else. Yes, it’s the one revolving around a troupe’s noble effort in a staging of The Diary of Anne Frank that had such poor acting it had one fed-up patron proclaim loudly “They’re in the attic!!!”
I couldn’t help but think of that particular anecdote shortly after She Dies Tomorrow began…because it’s around that time I blurted out “Is it tomorrow yet?” and then spent the next 75 minutes waiting for that moment to arrive. Though it boasts a nifty poster and an appealing premise that appears tailor-made to the self-contained uncertainty we find ourselves living in, this incessantly grating bit of delirium shouldn’t have waited to put anyone (least of all us , the viewers) out of its misery. Thus, it ends up being exactly the kind of messy dreck that gives indie films good street cred by those that seek out obscure titles to fawn over but is a complete dud for anyone else.
Though she’s recently moved into a new apartment and appears to have a semblance of a decent life, Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil, You’re Next) thinks she’s going to die tomorrow. That’s it…that’s basically the entire premise of the movie that gets repeated over and over again within actress turned writer/director Amy Seimetz’s (2019’s Pet Sematary) languid script. Actually, there’s a supposed bit of intrigue as to how Amy’s belief of her impending doom infects everyone she comes in contact with and how they in turn spread that paranoia onward. Her friend (Jane Adams, Poltergeist, a kooky bright spot at times) passes it to her brother (Chris Messina, Cake), his wife (Kate Aselton, Bombshell), and their friends (Tunde Adebimpe, Marriage Story and Jennifer Kim, Spider-Man: Homecoming) before handing it over to a few other familiar faces that must have owed Seimetz a favor. How this extended circle deals copes with their purported demise runs the gamut from the cruel to the criminal — not the kind of material that’s exciting to watch or that gives the usually talented performers much to work with.
It all comes back to Amy, though, and while Seimetz attempts to give an origin story to the fear that drives Amy to panic it’s covered in so much heavy-handed missteps in eye-crossing cinematography drowned out by an often ear-plugging score that you can barely pay attention. So whatever larger message Seimetz is trying to convey gets lost amidst a clamor of her own making. The same goes for the performances which range from the zombified (Sheil) to the whacked-out (Michelle Rodriguez, Widows) and in the end it’s Adams who likely comes out the best because the entire utterly bizarre film plays right into her wheelhouse of strange characters moving through this earthly plane. Reportedly Seimetz used her salary from Pet Sematary to fund this picture and you wonder if the money wouldn’t have been better spent on an actual cemetery for pets instead of this eye-rolling folderol.
I can already see this being heralded a triumph by those bored on the straight-forward offerings available these past few months, but I saw no real artistry on display, unfortunately. I felt like I should have responded differently but whatever takeaway I was meant to be left with vanishes among the punishing noise. Even looking at the movie as metaphor for anxiety or grappling with the inner monologue of one’s own mortality lets the film off a hook it deserves to be hitched to. So it’s not as if the intent wasn’t clear…it’s the execution that left me completely at odds with nearly everything else the film brought to the table, rendering it unwatchable in my book. Its impenetrable notions of gloom and doom may send you scrambling toward your cure-all for the blues but it makes you wonder…when life is already so tenuous, why add more inexplicable horror to your plate if you don’t have to? She Dies Tomorrow but pick something else today.