‘She Dies Tomorrow’: meet the star of 2020’s first COVID-19 horror film

Kate Lyn Sheil tackles anxiety and existentialism in "2020: The Movie"

Despite a respectable distance between the film’s shoot and coronavirus’ arrival, writer-director Amy Seimetz’s She Dies Tomorrow has already been called “the first COVID-era thriller” and “2020: The Movie” by critics. It’s a fair comparison.

Stuffed with anxiety and existential threat, the new horror follows Amy – played by American actor Kate Lyn Sheil (House Of Cards), a loose stand-in for Seimetz – who is so confident of her impending death that she starts looking at urns online. Eventually, her friend Jane comes to visit, and soon she too becomes convinced that her end is just around the corner.

Speaking to NME via Zoom, Sheil spilled some beans on what it was like turning reality back into fiction.

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She Dies Tomorrow explores anxiety and existentialism. Did you learn much about yourself on the shoot?

“I hope so. Something Amy and I talked about from the beginning was that [my character’s] attempting to reach catharsis. She has one day left to live and could do something momentous with that time, but she largely fails to get there. She tries to cry and can’t, tries to have a special moment, wanting the music to transport her somewhere else, to really take it in and she just can’t. That is very relatable and very human, to try and fail to seize the moment.”

Early on, we see Amy playing the same record on repeat. What music do you turn to for comfort?

“I like things that make me cry – I am always seeking some sort of cathartic moment when I feel that way. ‘Only You Know’ by Dion allows me to get some stuff out that I need to get out. I hesitate to say it because I feel that everybody loves it, but ‘Tusk’ by Fleetwood Mac really occupies a space for me that’s nostalgic and comforting.”

She Dies Tomorrow
Amy Seimetz’s creepy sci-fi horror gets trippy for a moment. Credit: Blue Finch Releasing

Amy thinks she’s going to die, so she looks at urns online. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve Googled during lockdown?

“I don’t know how weird it is, but truly, buying seeds from small farms. I’ve just begun to garden. Right now, I’m away from my home and I’m so afraid my plants aren’t going to be doing well when I get home. I have no idea what I’m doing with gardening, but I feel a sense of purpose that I’ve largely lacked recently.”

You’ve worked with director Amy Seimetz and co-star Jane Adams before. Did that help?

“It [gave me] a safe space, I guess. You’re able to walk a little bit further out on the land and feel comfortable that you’re in good hands. Either with Jane as a scene partner or with Amy directing, nobody’s going to let you make a fool of yourself, so you feel able to take more swings, performance-wise.”

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What films did you watch for inspiration during production?

“Amy and I have a couple of movies that are north stars, reference-wise, but we had fewer conversations here than we did on Sun Don’t Shine. We both loved Isabelle Adjani’s performance in Possession. There’s a scene in the subway tunnel that is just so wildly, physically performative in terms of high key emotion being expressed, so that’s always in the back of my mind. But I don’t know that we talked about many other movies for this.”

You’ve been dubbed “the Meryl Streep of the micro-budget film community” – pleased with that?

“That’s a very generous way for someone to describe me. I gravitate towards independent film, but at the same time I would be lying if I said I was a purist. Marvel’s not beating down my door, you know? I’m working on projects that I am thrilled to work on and are suited to my particular taste but I don’t have some single-minded thought that I will only work in independent film.”

She Dies Tomorrow
Kate Lyn Sheil as Amy in ‘She Dies Tomorrow’. Credit: Blue Finch Releasing

Who’s on your dream collaborator list?

“Oh gosh. I love Paul Thomas Anderson’s movies – I think most people do. I think Mia Hansen-Løve is really amazing. I’d love to work with Amy some more, and I hope I get to for the rest of time.”

‘She Dies Tomorrow’ is available on Curzon Home Cinema and Digital Download now

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