Set in a mortuary and featuring a macabre story, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is an engaging and refreshing movie. I know that there are many horror movies with the same setting, but this one feels oddly authentic. Mostly because of the story that I must try not to spoil. It features a uniquely twisted atmosphere powered by both the sense of dread that’s creeping from every dark corner and powerful performances by three main leads. Written by Ian Goldberg and Richard Naing (Fear the Walking Dead), the script is intelligent and not pretentious. It also has great replay value as it’s not some totally fucked up monstrosity like Aftermath. This means that even casual horror lovers or just movie fans will be able to enjoy it. Granted, there’s the whole naked dead girl thing but the sexual angle is left to your perverse imagination, I guess.
After the onslaught of the visually impressive horror movies from 2000 to 2010, the attack was seemingly over. Everything that could be done has been already done from zombies, various monsters, all kinds of settings, and finally horror-comedies. In all this mayhem, the classic horror genre was rather neglected and as the director of this movie, André Øvredal stated, the release of The Conjuring in 2013 marks a return to more traditional horror values. Andre’s previous movie was a found-footage gem Trolljegeren AKA TrollHunter. Soon after it, he decided that his first English-speaking movie must be a return to the core values of horror.
In a small town, the body of a young woman has just been found at the scene of the gruesome murder. The sheriff can’t make heads or tails of it and he escorts the body to a local coroner. He hopes to get some answers after the autopsy. Tommy has been a coroner for a long time and is looking to retire soon. He plans on leaving the family business to his son Austin who happens to be there when the sheriff arrives. The two of them will have a long night ahead of them it seems. Just how long and dangerous, neither of them knew when they started the autopsy.
Starring Brian Cox who was simply phenomenal in the role of the experienced mortician who has seen and heard it all and Emile Hirsch as his son, the cast was small but fucking spot on. Olwen Catherine Kelly as Jane Doe had the hardest role, especially considering that they didn’t use prosthetics or CGI, so it’s actually her that you’re seeing laying there on the mortician’s table. The cinematography was also great, with clean and saturated colors and a sleek vibe. Since the whole story is happening in real-time and in one place (the mortuary), there’s this constant claustrophobic vibe that intensifies as the movie goes on.
The director decided not to use cheap scares but to create a very engaging atmosphere. Engaging atmosphere wrapped in a lot of mystery that will keep the viewer guessing what’s going. Clever sound design used both the eery atmosphere of the setting and the very absence of any sound to build up tension. The Autopsy of Jane Doe will make you squirm in your seat and although it loses some of the momentum in the final third, it’s still one hell of a movie. I don’t want to talk too much of the story because this is one of those movies that you should just dive in and revel in its beauty, especially if you’re a horror fan. This is, in my opinion, already a cult classic.