The Autopsy of Jane Doe Review

Posted: October 27, 2016 in 2016 London Film Festival, Horror, Reviews
Tags: , , , ,

autopsyofjanedoeIt is more than a shame that The Autopsy of Jane Doe is not being released this weekend. It’s bad business not to make this film available for audiences at Halloween. One can easily imagine a huge opening weekend for one of the best horror films of 2016, courtesy of teens and millennials keyed up for a good scare. Instead, the film will hit the cineplex on December 21, when it will try to find an audience on the one or two screens not showing Rogue One on a continuous loop. Talk about leaving money on the table…

Regardless of when it becomes available, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is mandatory viewing for all scary movie cinephiles and would-be morticians. The film is a good old fashioned fright fest with a novel premise that entertains as a supernatural medical mystery before settling into a more conventional story for the third act. Remember the television show Quincy M.E.? (Ugh, did it really go off the air in 1983? Using that show as a point of comparison is more accurate than carbon dating in determining the age of the reviewer.) Anyway, Quincy, played by Jack Klugman, was a medical examiner and most episodes started with a corpse. After a brief narrative prologue, that’s where The Autopsy of Jane Doe begins – with the bare naked corpse of a beautiful young woman found half-buried and perfectly preserved in the basement of a suburban house that has been the scene of an inexplicable tragedy.

The job of determining the cause of death falls to the father-and-son team running the town’s only funeral home, Tilden’s Mortuary & Crematorium. Tommy the elder (Brian Cox) is a widower and preparing to step down in favor of his offspring Austin (Emile Hirsch), who is more interested in getting his hands on his girlfriend Emma (Ophelia Lovibond) than on another stiff. They’ve already got a couple on ice on ice before the sheriff comes calling with the girl from the cellar. She’s dubbed Jane Doe because of a lack of ID, and Tommy and Austin tuck into her like a bucket from the Colonel’s just as a terrible storm descends on the town.

With each slice of their scalpels, the mystery deepens. Nothing is obvious, let alone the cause of death, as the physiological clues do not make sense relative to time and space. It’s almost impossible to stay ahead of the story through the first half of the movie as director André Øvredal and screenwriters Ian B. Goldberg and Richard Naing pitch a steady stream of curveballs that keep the viewers off balance. Thrown in the perfect set – a claustrophobia-inducing, authentic-as-all-hell, basement mortuary – and you got yourself a ballgame.

Cox and Hirsch are terrific as the leads and Olwen Catherine Kelly as our mysterious Jane Doe makes one hell of a beautiful naked girl who slowly becomes the dominant presence in the room. The movie is not as gruesome as one might imagine from the title, but no one will feel cheated for a lack of gore. Mostly what you get from The Autopsy of Jane Doe is fun. This is one you want to see in a packed theater at midnight, and while it would have been perfect for Halloween, any day will do.

  1. reocochran says:

    I like Emile Hirsch, he played a character on the television show, “Numbers.” 🙂

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