starstar(2 stars)

Writer-director Amy Seimetz dredges up a queasily effective sense of impending doom in “She Dies Tomorrow,” a vivid but vaporous portrait of collective unease that feels uncannily of this moment.

The film opens on the teary, bleary eye of an obviously distraught woman. It belongs to a character named Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil), who has awakened on an alien-looking yellow couch in the middle of the desert. Making her way to a new house in Los Angeles, she numbly goes through packing boxes and half-unpacked household items, puts Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D Minor on repeat, pours herself several glasses of wine and surfs the Web for cremation urns.

Amy goes through these motions like a ghost visiting the ruins of a past life, caressing the walls and floorboards, standing outside to consider the backyard vegetation. At one point, her friend Jane (Jane Adams) stops by for a visit, and becomes alarmed: Amy is convinced she’s about to die, a certainty that Jane dismisses as a paranoid fantasy until she, too, is engulfed by a similar existential miasma.

Seimetz, best known for directing and acting in such television series as “The Girlfriend Experience” and the film “Pet Semetary,” is an expert in atmospherics. “She Dies Tomorrow” oozes with Southern California banality, even as it evokes the weirdness of classics such as “Repulsion” and “Safe.” And she casts her movies beautifully: Sheil, who starred in Seimetz’s 2012 feature debut “Sun Don’t Shine,” manages to be blank and expressive at the same time, while supporting players Adams, Chris Messina and a hilarious Josh Lucas provide welcome animation to otherwise somnambular proceedings. (Cineastes will appreciate a cameo by the revered experimental filmmaker James Benning who pops up in one of the film’s most disturbing interchanges.)

What’s it all about? Seimetz doesn’t say, or at least not in “She Dies Tomorrow,” which in some ways is positioned as a conventional horror film, but instead floats to its indeterminate conclusion on a drifting cloud of maddeningly opaque pronouncements, close-up shots of shifting shapes, light and color and the protagonist's dolorous sense of fatalism. The film’s themes of sorrow, grief and contagion can’t help but resonate in a time of pandemic and unimaginable loss. But there are no concrete ideas to bolster what is essentially an amorphous drift into inchoate terror. As an exercise in tone, “She Dies Tomorrow” is impressively resourceful, even acute; when it comes to anything more substantial, it feels as wispy as a desiccated palm frond.

R. Available on various streaming platforms. Contains strong language, some sexual references, drug use and bloody images. 84 minutes.