She’s not a household name, but horror fans may recognize her more than the average moviegoer. Appearing in two of indie genre director Adam Wingard’s best, A Horrible Way to Die and You’re Next, Ti West’s Jim Jones versus Vice thriller The Sacrament, and Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant, this actress turned director knows her way around the genre space. Now, Amy Seimetz is getting the most attention of her entire career stepping behind the camera for the second time with her anxiety driven contagion story She Dies Tomorrow.
Seimetz is earning raves for the film and it’s receiving more notoriety than it would have because of the unintentional but undeniable connection to the global pandemic. When your main character spreads the fear of death into others like some sort of prophetic infection, that’s bound to happen. In our conversation, heavier themes of anxiety, panic attacks and isolation came up but we also had a little fun talking about 1983’s Brainstorm starring Christopher Walken, Friday the 13th Part 2, and psychedelic mushrooms. Would Seimetz ever consider directing a slasher film? Find out below. Be sure to check out She Dies Tomorrow On Demand starting today, August 7th.
Synopsis: After waking up convinced that she is going to die tomorrow, Amy’s carefully mended life begins to unravel. As her delusions of certain death become contagious to those around her, Amy and her friends’ lives spiral out of control in a tantalizing descent into madness.
Dread Central: The film is so wrapped up in the pandemic but really it was just a matter of timing. How do you feel about your film having that connection now?
Amy Seimetz: It’s very surreal. I do, of course, wish the pandemic wasn’t happening on many levels. It’s been very interesting doing interviews because they’ve become incredibly personal as opposed to it just being about the technical parts about making a movie. It is really interesting to engage with people who are feeling some of the stuff that I was trying to touch on like the isolation and the desire to connect. Also, the confrontation and fear of death and the contagious aspect of everything. I wish I had a more eloquent answer than just basically I’m saying, it’s weird.
DC: I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to the film, in a way. I wanted to thank you for sharing so much of yourself while promoting the film. It is impossible to remove your own anxiety when you’re talking about it. I was just listening to Michelle Obama’s podcast and she was saying that we’re spending more time in our own heads now more than ever.
AS: Yeah, that’s at least what I was trying to get to in dealing with my own anxiety for multiple reasons. The impetus for the movie is stemming from I would talk to a friend, actually Jane Adams and Kate Lyn Sheil, and tell them about my anxiety. Then, I would inevitably feel guilty that I was burdening them with my anxiety and passing it on. In addition to that, there’s sort of a sick gratification of I wish you could just feel for a second what I’m feeling so you’d understand. Not that I’d wish bad things on people but just to have a feeling of really wanting to be understood.
What’s that movie? Brainstorm! Have you ever seen that? He compiles all the best memories of being with his wife…you can do a read of what you’re feeling and your thoughts and put them into film. Then they can understand how you’re actually feeling. It’s sort of that desire of I wish you could see, just for a second, how I’m feeling.
DC: I definitely wanted to talk about Jane Adams, it was so great seeing her. She kind of put the dark in dark comedy. Is that gallows humor and overall comic weirdness of the film important to have when dealing with a heavy subject like death and to have someone like Jane Adams as the character Jane?
AS: Yes, Jane had to be Jane. Some of the things I wrote into the movie are pretty much ripped from conversations. Even her having that conversation with Kate Lyn Sheil who plays Amy on the phone, I had to pat myself on the back, that’s a pretty good translation of what it’s like to talk to Jane on the phone as me. It’s sort of wild. It would be a disservice to the feeling that I was trying to capture to not include humor in it. Anything dark that I’ve ever gone through, I’ve also laughed the hardest during those times. Inevitably, there’s a moment where I laugh at myself. Kate Lyn Sheil and Jane Adams know me so well and they’re also the same. It’s not a monster, it’s death. It’s not like we get to escape it so what, we’re just not going to laugh anymore because we’re going to die? It was important for me to allow it to be absurdist.
DC: When each character has the realization that they’re going to die and they get hit by the red and blue lights and they’re staring into the void, what did you imagine them seeing? Did you give certain actors certain things to think about during those scenes?
AS: I gave them guidelines but I wanted them to play with it. When you think about it, there is such a flood of emotions that happen when you think about death. Also, just reading about near death experiences, there’s simultaneously fear, a feeling of ecstasy, a feeling of curiosity, a feeling of sadness, and a feeling of confusion. Allow yourself to feel every single emotion that you possibly can. It should feel like a manic overwhelming feeling. It’s not just fear. It’s the flood of every emotion coursing through your body.
DC: Could you talk about those smaller roles a little bit with Josh Lucas and Michelle Rodriguez? How did those roles get filled and were you just calling in favors right and left? It was also great to see Adam Wingard in there, too.
AS: That was definitely a favor I called in! He knew, he’s put me through some hellish moments. I love him dearly though. With Josh Lucas and Michelle Rodriguez, I had had lunch with Michelle Rodriguez a few years ago and it was one of these general meetings that your agent sets you up on. She was lovely and funny and weird and dark. Luckily enough, she was finishing Fast & the Furious…she showed up for a day and we shot these scenes. With Josh Lucas, I was trying to figure out who could play that part…he was in the middle of doing press for another car movie, Ford v Ferrari, and he had a day and showed up and he was just game. Both of them to their credit didn’t really know necessarily what in particular they were doing. They showed up and they were just ready to play. They were the live wires that gave it a lot of energy, to me.
DC: You’ve said also that one of your favorite horror films is Friday the 13th Part 2. Would you ever be interested in directing a straight up and down slasher film?
AS: I don’t really like watching people get stabbed and stuff. If I had to do it…I don’t like watching people stabbed and then us not acknowledging how horrific that is, you know? I think if I did it, it would be a lot more horrific in a realistic sense of really taking in the horror and the trauma of seeing somebody. I feel like in a lot of these slasher movies, people get stabbed and then they run and just ignore it for the rest of the movie. What happened to that person? Did they take him to the hospital? I would be interested but, for me, real life is horror. The horror of real life and the real life repercussions of those scenes are terrible. I think there’s a way to do it to acknowledge that and not show violence in such a way where you get to walk away and ignore it.
DC: The scariest moment for me in She Dies Tomorrow is when the mushrooms are starting to kick in and he’s just standing there in the door not moving. It’s scary because she’s witnessing that and it makes it more disturbing. The film is very psychedelic to me, probably because I’ve done hallucinogens before…
AS: I’ve never, Drew.
DC: I was going to say if it’s not too personal, were any of the ideas inspired by any trips you’ve had before?
AS: Yes? Totally. In the same way that emotions can seem so real to you, it’s like the same thing with whatever you’re going through. I go through panic attacks, some family members and people close to me have personality disorders. The closest way you can touch that if you don’t have a personality disorder is the feeling of when you’re taking mushrooms where this is real and I understand everything. And then the next day you’re like, ‘What did I understand?’ Everyone’s sort of on their own trip whether they’re doing drugs or not, just with life in general.
Sometimes, like in that moment – I’m glad you find it disturbing – of him not responding, that’s some of the more nightmarish things that I feel in life but also in my head. If you’re having this communication with somebody and it seems jovial and something shifts and you’re not quite sure what happened, there’s something extremely disturbing when communication stops happening. There’s just something deeply disturbing about that. But yes, psychedelics have something to do it with it but not everything. It’s just an experience that I’ve had to call upon.
She Dies Tomorrow is available August 7th On Demand.