Wednesday, April 24, 2024

In the Reels: ‘She Dies Tomorrow’ puts tone before story

By Cameron Kaercher

One aspect horror films do not get enough credit for is how they can act as a reflection of our society at that time. David Cronenberg’s version of “The Fly” came out during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the goopy body horror of Jeff Goldblum’s titular transformation is a symbol of the fear of our body failing us. The rise of conservative values in the eighties is reflected in the “Friday the 13th” films, as the sexually promiscuous teenagers are bloodily reprimanded by the hockey mask-wearing killer.

With the current pandemic affecting all of our lives, more films about disease and fear of running out of time are going to be right around the corner.

One film seems to have seen the storm coming and proactively struck.

“She Dies Tomorrow” stars Kate Lyn Sheil as Amy, someone who thinks she will die tomorrow. There is no reason she feels that way, but the reasons are not the story, it is the emotion itself. For better or worse, she is not alone, as this thought is contagious and spreads to her friend Jane, played by Jane Adams.

When it comes to plot, that is about it.

The main plot acts as a framework to hang the atmosphere on, which can be understandably frustrating for those who prefer more narrative-driven cinema. The intangible feeling of dread present in “She Dies Tomorrow” would make it a fine pairing to last week’s “I’m Thinking of Ending Things.” Both films also radiate an undeniable stylistic influence from David Lynch’s filmography. Kate Lyn Sheil bears an uncanny resemblance to Lynch’s frequent collaborator, Laura Dern.

Writer-director Amy Seimetz perfectly conceptualizes the scenes when a character feels the end of their life is just around the corner. Time slows down, and the backgrounds go out of focus as the actor stares directly into the camera. Then, the lighting changes.

Oftentimes, the art of cinematography is explained as painting with light. In this film, cinematographer Jay Keitel paints with a roller brush, bathing the characters in neon blue and red during their moments in which they feel they are about to die. Her portraiture work  is mesmerizing, and these moments of impending doom feel beautiful due to the craftsmanship on display.

Moments in the film are also bolstered by the haunting choral and orchestral score by Mondo Boys. The composed music fits so well, that it is disappointing when one scene is structured around Mozart’s, “Requiem –  Lacrimosa.” While the song’s classical power is tough to downplay, it feels cliché. On Spotify, the movie’s soundtrack isn’t even twenty minutes long. It would be better for the film if Mondo Boys were given more screen time to really show off their clear musical talent for scoring.

“She Dies Tomorrow” is a mood piece, therefore one must be in the right mood to watch this. One probably won’t enjoy it on a Tuesday afternoon, while snacking on something from the Sundowner. However, if you do give this film some time, and not a lot as it comes in under an hour and a half, you will find a powerful work of art.



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