New Horror Releases: The Autopsy Of Jane Doe (2016) - Reviewed

Horror is one of the most difficult genres to master.  It's malleable and relies on both the presentation of atmosphere and the viewer's sensibilities, which often makes for many forgettable films and near hits, as the narrative almost always collapses underneath the impressive weight of the set up.  Andre Ovredal's The Autopsy of Jane Doe is one such offering, using a simplistic baseline and a single location to build a unrivaled sense of dread that bottoms out in the final stretch.  Featuring a trio of exceptional performances and an excellent example of micro-world building, this is one of the year's better horror movies whose advantages overcome an underwhelming finish.

Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch star as a father-son coroner duo in a small town whose routine excursions into the stories of the dead are upended when they receive an unidentified female corpse to autopsy. Their interplay is immediately disarming, with the two actors embracing their familial relationship with intellectual discussions on the nature of death and a methodical, but believable approach to the grim work.  These are men who take pride in their work, but are also open to the reality of miscalculations, truths that ultimately hold darker meaning as the tale unfolds.  Olwen Kelly supports as the eponymous corpse.  What initial appears as a rather simplistic role is subverted by Kelly's subtle body work and extreme command.  The revelation that she was picked for the role in part for her mastery of yoga enhances the mystique behind her portrayal, resulting in character is that will haunt the viewer for nights to come.

Ian Goldberg and Richard Naing's script begins as a slow burn science project with wicked intent.  The father and son work not in silence, but in candid exchanges on the process, the craft, and the secret traditions of the trade, and this is where the film shines.  The buildup of the mystery is complex, but easy to follow, with the viewer drawing conclusions almost in step with the protagonists, with each horrific revelation quietly sneaking into the subconscious.  RomainOsin's cinematography abandons the odd angle playbook and keeps everything close to the chest.  Close ups of Jane Doe's porcelain visage, beautifully highlighted by Victoria Money's makeup design, are uncomfortable and attractive, always ensuring that Jane is the center of every scene she inhabits.  The interior of the funeral home is awash in hospital blues and greens, allowing the bloodshed to visually progress the action rather than merely being an accepted byproduct of the carnage.

Ovredal's presence has his usual charisma, with morbid humor and madcap compositions dappled throughout the tenseness and the mix mostly works.  It is in the final act that things fall apart, but the delicious first two acts easily overcome the sandbag finale.  Rather than stick with the intriguing ideas of the two men, one female corpse set up, the script takes things into a more traditional horror offering to finish it off and this is where the luster fades.  The endless possibilities of the nature of Jane's origins are quickly summarized to bring things to a predictable conclusion that almost undoes everything that precedes it.  Almost.

Do you find me sexy?

Available now for digital rental, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is an above average horror film that uses pronounced visuals and solid performances to set the trap.  While some may find its final few moments to be a letdown, the ride to get there is more than worth it.  This is a formidable example of less is more storytelling that uses all of the horror hallmarks to provide a level of excitement that horror fans have come to expect in a year packed with sensational offerings. 

Share your love for autopsies.

-Kyle Jonathan