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“She Dies Tomorrow” gets into your head so much, you’ll be dreaming of surfing the internet for cremation urns days afterward.
Writer/director Amy Seimetz ("The Girlfriend Experience") is flattered that her indie horror film is so infectious – especially in the middle of a pandemic – but also feels the need to apologize. “I mean, we're all going to die. So I'm sorry,” Seimetz says, laughing.
Given the movie's title, death is an unsurprisingly frequent topic in conversation with Seimetz about “She Dies Tomorrow” (available Friday on streaming platforms and video on demand), a trippy phantasmagoria about a woman named Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) who believes, yep, she’s going to die tomorrow. That existential, doom-filled thought spreads like a virus from Amy to her friend Jane (Jane Adams) and then to Jane’s brother (Chris Messina) and sister-in-law (Katie Aselton), and so on as all become convinced their numbers are about to be up, too.
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Seimetz’s concept of “I’m going to die tomorrow” as something that metastasizes came from “watching the news and these (political) ideas that were going on, whether it's right or left, spreading as an ideology as opposed to the actual thing itself." However, “She Dies Tomorrow” arrives in the midst of COVID-19 – which is “bottom-line surreal” for Seimetz – as a relatable kind of contagion thriller.
“Especially right now while we feel very disconnected from people, there's something deeply cathartic about the idea I can transfer all of this inside, put it into your brain and then you suddenly get what I'm going through,” Seimetz says of her film's conceit. “With COVID, we all are so isolated, but there’s a collective experience happening.”
Here’s how “She Dies Tomorrow” taps into Seimetz's feelings and our fears in timely fashion:
The movie is Amy Seimetz's way of confronting her own anxiety
For therapy, Seimetz attends a group that has a 12-step process in talking about anxiety, and that reflects her main character’s evolving journey – from Amy lying around her house pondering her impending doom, to pouring a glass of wine, picking up a leaf blower and going to town on deceased foliage while wearing a sequined dress.
“The interesting part is there's a lot of lamenting in these groups, but there's also a lot of laughter because you end up doing these very absurd sort of things when you're so consumed with this anxiety,” Seimetz says.
And while that all makes sense to Amy in her leaf-blowing moment, from her friend Jane’s (and the audience’s) perspective, “it looks completely insane,” adds Seimetz, who’s also an actress in addition to a filmmaker. (She appears in Showtime's upcoming miniseries “The Comey Rule” and her role in the recent remake of “Pet Sematary” financed the filming of “She Dies Tomorrow.”)
When feeling down, you find a sad song
Amy keeps dropping the needle on a recording of Mozart’s “Requiem,” a musical riff that becomes viral in itself: It's heard later in Jane's headphones as well.
“I heard that (Mozart) never completed it, and that to me seemed really appropriate,” Seimetz says. “Death and life, there's something unresolved to it, right? You deal with death. My father passed away. I dealt with it. It's not like I was like, ‘Well, whew! Got through that. Never have to deal with death again.' "
Seimetz was also playfully poking fun at herself: Dealing with her own anxiety, she has a tendency to “obsessively” play songs over and over, like “suddenly an epiphany is going to break it open or something.” The “Requiem” was her go-to tune when making the movie, though “if I want to cry, I'll just put on ‘Clair de Lune.' ”
Everybody deals with their doom in different ways
Coping mechanisms abound in “Tomorrow” as folks face their fates. One couple (Tunde Adebimpe and Jennifer Kim) rethink their relationship. Jane’s response is to desperately connect with others. And for Jane’s sister-in-law, it’s just one more reason to hate Jane. “Many people have gone through this with families,” Seimetz says. “There's inevitably somebody that wants to blame somebody for it.”
Amy rides dune buggies at night to deal, though a key moment in her realization comes when she repeats “I’m OK” out loud to herself and then starts saying, “I’m not OK.”
“That's a very universal feeling,” Seimetz says. “If you're having to tell yourself repetitively that you're OK, it probably means you're not OK. But that's OK that you're not OK.”
How’s Seimetz herself dealing during a pandemic? Exercise helps, but “it’s a day-to-day thing because we have no idea when this is ending,” she says. ”You're left with yourself in an uncomfortable way ... and you have to find peace with that.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'She Dies Tomorrow: COVID-era anxiety abounds in 'surreal' horror film