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Of the many industries impacted by COVID-19, the film industry is arguably one of the hardest hit. Theaters are closed, production has come to a halt and some of the most anticipated movies of 2020 have been pushed to next year. Fortunately, you can still enjoy some new releases from the comfort of your own home. Director Amy Seimetz’s She Dies Tomorrow is the latest horror flick to hit VOD and couldn’t have been released in a more timely manner.

She Dies Tomorrow follows Amy, played by Kate Lyn Sheil, and an insidious paranoia she possesses that leads her to believe she will die tomorrow. As Amy grapples with her inexplicable situation, her anxiety slowly infects her friends and the surrounding townsfolk, who also start to believe they will share Amy’s fate.

The film serves as a parable for humans coping with mortality and the acceptance of death, and fits eerily well with the atmosphere of the current COVID-19 pandemic and the frightening uncertainty that surrounds us all. While it does have some horrifying moments, She Dies Tomorrow’s timely examination is spoiled by a lack of character development and empty contemplation.

She Dies Tomorrow effectively relies on atmosphere to convey horror.

All humans deal with trauma, fear and stress differently. She Dies Tomorrow explores why we do certain things when faced with the end. Some seek comfort in others, as to be alone when dying is their ultimate fear. Others seek to make amends for past wrongdoings. To see humans in the completely vulnerable state of acceptance is terrifying. The movie prompts you to ask yourself: what would you do if you knew you would die tomorrow? It’s difficult to conceptualize such a thought without fear or paranoia.

The real horror of She Dies Tomorrow comes from watching different characters react to their impending demise. A father realizes that he must be with his wife and children in his final moments. Others search for answers in vain, spreading the disease of fear to all they encounter. There’s some true horror in this film and it’s conveyed with some solid performances, namely from Jane Adams, who plays a friend of Amy's. The on-screen emotion is accentuated by over-the-top mood lighting, close ups and Mozart. Sadly the moments of true anxiety are few and far between. It’s hard to get attached to any one character as there isn’t enough screen time to flesh each of them out.

Lack of character development makes it difficult to invest in She Dies Tomorrow.

Although She Dies Tomorrow features instances of effective horror, it’s difficult to care about any supporting characters. Outside of Kate Lyn Sheil and Jane Adams’s roles, the rest of the cast simply doesn't spend enough time on screen. What time they do have is used to banally banter about the mundane. At one point three characters argue about dolphin sex while Jane Adam listens, horrified of her own death. While it can be read as how carefree a person is before they grapple with their own morality, the execution is too shallow to develop feelings, positive or negative, for any one character. This applies to the entirety of the supporting cast.

Just as you become genuinely curious in one of the many side stories, you are pulled back to Amy and Jane and their psychedelic death journey. As the disease of fear spreads you care less and less about the characters you are seeing on screen and start to search for answers. Why is this happening? Will they really die tomorrow? What would you do if you died tomorrow?

She Dies Tomorrow asks interesting questions, but refuses to answer them.

All of these questions arise when watching She Dies Tomorrow. Unfortunately director Amy Seimetz refuses to answer any of them. After watching characters wrestle their own anxieties, confront demons and generally just freak out for 84 minutes, you are frustratingly left with the same questions you had at the beginning of the film. It feels less like She Dies Tomorrow has something to say as a film, rather it has something to ask. What would you do if you died tomorrow?

Now more than ever, there is merit in philosophical introspection and I can appreciate a film forcing viewers to ask themselves hard questions. As the world endures a global pandemic many are scared by an invisible killer that could be anywhere, anytime. Precaution naturally manifests as fear and you are forced to confront uncertainty. In those moments, the film really shines, when the characters experience raw fear of the unknown. But outside of those fleeting moments of horror, She Dies Tomorrow’s lack of character development and refusal to expand upon one singular idea leaves the film feeling hollow and unsatisfying.

4 / 10 stars
Rating: movie reviewed star rating out of five
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