Sunday, August 23, 2020

Horror Movie Mini-Reviews: She Dies Tomorrow (2020) and Exhibit A (2007)

She Dies Tomorrow (2020)

Amy is sure she's going to die tomorrow. Her friend Jane checks on her, only to also be consumed with the thought of dying tomorrow. After struggling to create some art and injuring herself, Jane goes to her sister-in-law's birthday party in her pajamas and passes along the thought to everyone. As it spreads, things spin out of control.

She Dies Tomorrow is a wonderful exercise in existential dread. How would you act if you knew with complete certainty that you would die tomorrow? Amy drowns her sorrows in booze and listens to dramatic music (Mozart's Requiem, the most dramatic music ever). Her boyfriend rages and destroys a room. Jane stumbles into her mean sister in law's birthday party in her pajamas. Others become brutally honest about their relationships or go to the doctor for help. People's behavior before and after the realization is completely different. Before, they seem relaxed and normal, but afterwards, becomes awkward and unnatural. The conversations afterwards are surreal and brutally honest.

This film is bound to be divisive and of course prompt the tiresome "is it horror" debate. I found it viscerally uncomfortable and full of nihilistic dread. The performances are top notch and the visuals range from mundane to vibrant and abstract. She Dies Tomorrow is a memorable experience that doesn't follow established tropes.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins 

Exhibit A

* major spoilers * 

The King family seems like any other. Judith is interested in photography and doesn't get along with her brother Joe, who's a bit of a jerk. The patriarch Andy is under pressure to get a promotion to alleviate their financial problems and move the family into their dream house. The promotion seems always on the horizon and their money problems worsen, especially after Andy decides to build a pool in the backyard. His behavior gets more and more erratic as time goes on, leading him to come home covered in blood one day. It's only the beginning of his spiral out of control.

Exhibit A is a found footage movie marked right away as evidence. Most of the footage is taken by Judith documenting her family and her next door crush (which is actually invasive and creepy). Her father seems like a good-natured, sweet guy who care about his family. The truth comes out in small doses as Andy has mood swings, starts smoking, gambles compulsively, . The scene where Judith finds trash bags full of used scratchers is absolutely chilling. He tries to repeatedly assure the family everything is fine, but everything points to the opposite. The ending sequence is horrific to watch as Andy attempts suicide and Judith saves him tearfully. Instead of thanking her, he smothers her to unconsciousness and dispatches the rest of the family.

This film moves pretty slowly, but shows a complete picture of the family before the tragic end. Each of the family members is nuanced and harboring a secret of some kind. This is a fascinating fictionalized look at a family annihilator, a man who kills his entire family usually tied to their own failure, their desire to to start a new life, or perceived betrayals from their family members. I hadn't heard of Exhibit A before it got on Amazon Prime, but it's one of the most effective found footage movies without supernatural elements. 

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

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