The Gothic Heroine’s Second Act

Quarantine art is marked by dread and claustrophobia, characteristics that have always been predominantly female

Jude Ellison S. Doyle
GEN
Published in
6 min readAug 7, 2020

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‘She Dies Tomorrow.’ Photo: NEON

The future may or may not be female, but quarantine is. Six months into the global pandemic that has brought American life to a crashing halt, we can now spot a trend of seemingly era-defining works, all of them by women. There’s Fiona Apple’s long-awaited Fetch the Bolt Cutters, recorded entirely in her home, on cheap GarageBand software, which “sounds like 2020 feels.” There’s Taylor Swift’s Folklore, an album of downtempo, social-distanced piano music written and recorded miles away from her closest collaborators. To this growing canon, we can now add Amy Seimetz’s film She Dies Tomorrow, which critics have called “the most 2020 movie of 2020.”

More unites these works than just the gender of their creators, of course. They all possess a hushed and quiet tone, equal parts creeping claustrophobia and lingering sadness. It’s the mood you hear in the muffled pops and thumps behind Fiona Apple’s voice when she whispers, “I’ve been in here too long,” or the foggy black-and-white deep woods Taylor Swift wanders through in her album photography.

That spirit of melancholy also imbues She Dies Tomorrow, which premieres today on VOD. She Dies Tomorrow was conceived and shot before the Covid crisis, but its parallels to the current moment are unsettling. The plot revolves around a woman, Amy (played by Kate Lyn Sheil), who is convinced she has only a day to live. When she turns to a friend for help, that friend develops the same delusion — and every time the friend wanders into a birthday party or a hospital, looking for solace, everyone there becomes infected, too.

A pandemic of fear! The idea sounds pulpy and silly, like a spiritual sequel to M. Night Shyamalan’s universally dunked-on The Happening. What makes She Dies Tomorrow feel current is the quiet, understated nature of its dread. There are no big action sequences in this film, nor are there any jump scares. Nearly all the dialogue is delivered in a whisper. We’re simply asked to witness Amy’s unraveling: walling herself up in her house, drinking too much wine, and weeping into her floorboards. It feels familiar, to say the least.

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Jude Ellison S. Doyle
GEN
Writer for

Author of “Trainwreck” (Melville House, ‘16) and “Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers” (Melville House, ‘19). Columns published far and wide across the Internet.