In a kind of twisted reflection of recent events, She Dies Tomorrow treats 21st-century political confusion as deadly dystopian contagion.
Remember that bit in David Lowry’s A Ghost Story (2017)? The bit that everyone hated where Roony Mara takes ages to eat a pie? Well, She Dies Tomorrow is basically that scene for an hour and a half. I mean no one actually eats a pie too slowly, they’re too busy mooning about the place and looking glum for that. But you get my drift. Despite the film’s intriguing premise and some nice visual flourishes, it fails to establish itself in any meaningful manner. And this is a shame because writer and director Amy Siemetz has at least delivered an idea which is potentially both fascinating and terrifying.
Taking its cue from other creepy Lovecraftian cinematic dalliances such as Spring (2014) and The Endless (2018) from Moorhead and Benson, who take on producer credits here, the story is on the face of it, a truly powerful one. Amy, who believes the world will end the following day, passes on her depressing conviction like a virus; friends and acquaintances begin to feel the weight of her existential dread, which might be seen as either a COVID response or a wider critique of modern politics and the hopelessness it inspires. This basic idea is cross-referenced with various other influences. There are Mandy-esque chromatic touches, coupled with a Kieslowski style stillness and stilted Lynchian-dialogue, and yet the sum of its parts is not bigger than the hole it quickly falls into.
While I’m not averse to the slow burn, or arty quietness, or indeed the director’s intense level of ambiguity, there are limits. The idea, as good as it is, feels stretched beyond its capacity. A lack of any serious characterization (perhaps the most Lovecraftian element of the whole film), or any relatable personalities result in us not giving enough of a fuck to carry on watching. The first twenty minutes or so drag on relentlessly, and aside from some deeply annoying repeated cutaways to a record player and some general misery cut to a Mondo Boys classical style overture, virtually NOTHING happens. Then, for the last sixty minutes, quite a lot more NOTHING happens. And to make things worse, that tedium is populated by the kind of purposeless ensemble players you only seem to get in these self-indulgent, self-important, indie snore fests. Tiresome middle-class thirty-something cut-outs whisper and mumble their way through the beleaguered non-narrative, prattling about the meaning of life without ever cottoning on to the pointlessness of their own insipid existence.
She Dies Tomorrow should be good. I genuinely wanted to love it, and there are brief moments when it feels like it might be the thing it could be, but like the vacuous life of the protagonist, there simply isn’t enough there to keep anyone going. There is a mild sense of dread and a general creepiness, but if the only jeopardy on offer is that the world might end the following day, you have to at least present us with a world that might be worth saving for some reason. Otherwise, all we end up doing is wondering why it doesn’t just end sooner, saving us all from the protracted dreariness of this forgettable feature.
She Dies Tomorrow will be available on Curzon Home Cinema and Digital Download from 28 August.