Released: 21 December 2016 (USA)
Director: André Øvredal
Screenplay: Ian Goldberg, Richard Naing
Actors: Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Ophelia Lovibond
Cox and Hirsch play father and son coroners who receive a mysterious homicide victim with no apparent cause of death. As they attempt to identify the beautiful young “Jane Doe,” they discover increasingly bizarre clues that hold the key to her terrifying secrets.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe is one of those quiet, subtly creepy horror films that I love. I went into the movie with some high expectations because of the trailer, and I’m quite happy that the movie didn’t disappoint me.
The most striking thing, to me, was how claustrophobic it felt. For the most part, the two main characters spend their time in the morgue with the “Jane Doe,” so when shit starts to hit the fan, there’s a heightened awareness about the possibly dire situation at hand because there’s nowhere for the characters to run. They’re boxed in, which affects the way you, as a viewer, feels when you’re watching it. The room you’re in might start to feel a bit smaller. The shadows slowly creeping up the walls might seem a bit more haunting. I adore the subtle dread that such small horror movie sets can achieve in the hands of a great director. The fact that the claustrophobic room just happens to be a morgue makes it even more dreadful. Added to this is the fact that we don’t see a lot of horrific things. This movie plays with both the characters’ and the audience’s imagination. Are you seeing something? Are you not? What’s really there? The small set amplifies these questions and the uneasiness you might feel. This film’s success in this department reminded me a lot of the tone and anxiety brought forth in Pontypool–one of my favorite smaller horror films.
The other solid aspect of the movie was the acting. Both Cox and Hirsh were great in this film. I found it easy to sympathize with both of them, and you really do start to root for them. It’s easy to make a familial relationship too saccharine when terrible things start to happen, but I never thought the acting or the script got overly sentimental, which I appreciated. I also have to give props to Lovibond, who managed to really creep me out, and nailed the whole “laying dead on an autopsy table” aspect of her character. The one plot point I felt was a tad unnecessary, or perhaps just underdeveloped, was the girlfriend–and a lot of this is because I felt she became an easy variable to throw in without a lot of work necessary by the end of the film. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about.
The effects used were, overall, great. There’s a lot of gore in the movie, which is to be expected when you go into a movie about an autopsy. You’re going to see a bone saw, and you might (definitely) see some brain. I particularly enjoyed the second set of skin we got to see about halfway or three-fourths of the way through the movie. I thought that was a great touch, particularly in light of the advancing plot, and looked awesome. Just like the claustrophobia of the autopsy room, the breaking down and stripping back of Jane Doe’s body makes you feel uncomfortable in all the best ways, but it’s never gratuitous. It never feels exploitative, either.
I’m obviously not going to spoiler the ending, but I will say that I thought it was a bit weak immediately after watching the film. However, I think it would seem stronger upon a rewatch. I obviously enjoyed the reveal that happened, but I felt that everything came to a head too quickly after the reveal. It felt just the tiniest bit rushed. It would be interesting to see how it comes together knowing ahead of time what will happen.
Overall, I highly recommend this movie. It’s a solid, successful horror film. It’s more original than the scores of remakes we keep receiving, and it makes for a great night. I , obviously, recommend watching it in the dark. It adds to the discomfort that the film so successfully achieves.
Have you seen The Autopsy of Jane Doe? What did you think?
Until next time, stay scary.