Yes, She Dies Tomorrow Is On Blu Now!

You might think it's crazy to be stuck buying a barebones new release DVD of one of 2020's best films.  720x480, still, in the age of 3840x2160?  Madness!  Well, let me reassure you, dear reader, this is no DVD... it's a DVD-R!  That's right, one of those M.O.D. video discs that's not even allowed to use the traditional DVD logo on its packaging.  Whomp, whomp.  But, yes, alright.  Something's still better than nothing.  I'm taking it.  She Dies Tomorrow is a literal must-have film; and considering how many other new films are simply being planted in various streaming service's walled gardens and left to rot these days, I guess I am still grateful to have an official, packaged release for my shelf, even if it is in SD.  I mean, it isn't like we're not still stuck with even worse editions of our other favorites.

Update 1/21/21 - 10-23-21: Woot!  Less than a year later, and everything's fixed.  Well, at least if you can play Region B discs.  Koch Media has released She Dies Tomorrow in Germany on DVD and Blu in a fancy-schmancy combo-pack mediabook.  Does it manage to be everything we fans disappointed by the DVD-R hoped for?
If you're not familiar with this one, though, and you're reading me saying things like "one of 2020's best films," "literal must-have" and calling it a favorite, maybe don't give it a blind-buy just yet.  First of all, I would not consider this a horror film, but it's being marketed as such.  The Indiewire quote on the front of the box calls this a "gripping apocalyptic thriller," and while I know what they mean, I don't think I could come up with more misleading marketing copy without overtly lying.  This film never once, for a split second even attempts to be thrilling.  If there's anything remotely scary about it, it's a sense of morose existential dread.  The closest film I can come up with to it, I guess, would be Lars von Trier's Melancholia?  Except even that film had its characters facing the ostensible threat of an on-coming planetary collision.  No such danger exists here.  And that's not a criticism, at least anymore than saying Schindler's List doesn't have any big belly laughs in it - it's just not that kind of movie.  I've heard a lot of frustrated comments from people expecting the next Babadook or Midsommar (ugh, thank you for not being another Midsommar), in entirely the wrong disposition to respond to a darkly witty drama whose strengths lie in subtle, sympathetic observations of human behavior.
I'm going to give you the quite concise, official description of She Dies Tomorrow right from the back of the box, because I watched this with someone who wound up feeling frustrated because they assumed this film was leading up to some kind of big reveal.  This is definitely a "journey not the destination" story, and I think being on the same page as the storytellers (because I'd read a bit about the film before diving in) really freed me up to engage with it right from the start.  So here it is:
"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."
See, because this film is being presented as a sort of elevated horror film, you can get stuck watching this film thinking all the dialogue and character work is some sort of slow burn building up to a climatic shock.  Like, at the end, aliens will be revealed.  Or even an ominous presence left vague, like It Comes At Night or (lol) Bird Box.  But the whole point this time is that there's nothing out there; this film's just about what people think is going to happen.  And that's not a spoiler.  The film tries to tell us that early and repeatedly.  It's right there in the two-sentence pitch that's also on the official film's webpage and everywhere else they can sow it.  They did their bit to let us know.
Writer/ director Amy Seimetz apparently agreed to star in the recent Pet Sematary remake to finance this film.  Who would've guessed in 2019 that something good would've come of that?  But here we are!  Kate Lyn Sheil, of Kate Plays Christine and Seimetz's excellent first film, Sun Don't Shine stars alongside the always wonderful Jane Adams (Happiness, Twin Peaks) as two friends who go on distinctly individual journeys during what they believe to be their last day on Earth.  This film swings easily from cutting to sympathetic and back as the film alternatively watches maudlin Kate self-indulgently replay the same Mozart record over and over and Jane overrun her sister-in-law's birthday party with her disengaged preoccupations to them finding joy and peace in the perfect ways to spend their final hours.  And we're treated to more and more perspectives and possibilities as everyone they come into contact with also become perfectly convinced that they will die tomorrow.  Fortunately, it's both too clever and sweet to become depressing, helped immeasurably by the cast, which also includes Josh Lucas, Jorge/ Jump Tomorrow's Tunde Adebimpe (boy, there's someone I haven't thought about in years!  But apparently he was in the last Spider-Man flick), horror director Adam Wingard and a refreshingly non-violent Michelle Rodriguez.
2020 Neon DVD-R top; 2021 Koch DVD mid; 2021 Koch BD bottom.
This film is left open at 1.78:1 on all three discs, but seeing as how the Neon Film Company seems to be releasing this directly through an MOD service themselves, I'm going to assume all matters of presentation are correct.  Like, if it was meant to be matted to 1.85:1, they'd have no one to blame but themselves.  And like I said in the intro, I've seen far worse DVDs.  This is not interlaced, pan & scan, censored, or troubled in any of the ways many of the films still stuck on old discs are.  Some scenes I'd say have an intentionally soft look to it, but the Neon disc is soft above and beyond that, drifting from a gentle mystique to flat-out murky.  Even the Koch DVD comes slightly more into focus... though it helps that it's also correcting a little vertical stretch, which also winds up revealing a sliver more information along the top and bottom of the Koch discs.  But yes, the blu looks decidedly sharper and cleaner.  Small detail that was, frankly, mush on the first disc comes into clear resolution on the BD, especially helpful in this film's many low-light scenes, where we're already on the edge of losing critical facial impressions in the shadows.

Meanwhile, all three discs provide a nice, clear 5.1 mix, but it's lossless DTS-HD on the blu.  The mediabook also includes a German dub, again in 5.1 DTS-HD, but loses half a point for not including optional English HoH subtitles like the DVD-R did.  They do provide optional German subs though, if that's helpful to ya; but this is small step backwards we have to accept along with our big steps forward.
Another point for the DVD-R, which is naturally pretty barebones, threw in the trailer, something MOD DVD-Rs don't typically bother with.  But Koch tops that handily enough.  First of all, they also include the trailer (and yes, in English) along with a couple German-language bonus trailers.  But then they include a sweet 23-minute 'making of!'  It's primarily comprised of an online conversation between Seimetz and her DP intercut with clips from the film, but there's also a brief visit to Seimetz's garage that still houses a lot of the stuff she used to make the film.  It's on the technical side, so don't come in hoping for Seimetz to unveil that it was really demons from the id the whole time; and the film clips run a bit overlong.  But it's pretty great.  Plus the mediabook naturally has the book element.  It's all in German, but still many pages of beautiful color imagery from the film tops the nothing that comes with the DVD-R.
It would've been nice to know this was pending back when the DVD-R came out, so we could've waited instead of wasting our money.  But this release is too satisfying for me to stay mad about even such a quick succession double-dip.  The new 'making of' was a nice surprise (the online listings I saw made no mention of it) that really helped take the sting out.  So obviously, yes, this is the version to choose now, and I'm just glad this movie finally has a release worthy of it.

1 comment:

  1. This is an extraordinary film. Thanks for the recommendation!