“The Autopsy of Jane Doe” starts with an intriguing premise and follows through with solid execution, backed by a stellar cast and compelling performances.
One of the breakout film festival hits of the last couple of years has been The Autopsy Of Jane Doe, André Øvredal’s English language debut feature. Having won multiple awards at prestigious gatherings such as Fantastic Fest & Sitges, Øvredal has been afforded a budget level befitting his indisputable talents, and he doesn’t waste the opportunity afforded to him.
With two leading actors as established as Brian Cox (Manhunter, X-Men 2) and Emile Hirsch (Milk, Into The Wild), it would doubtless have been difficult to go wrong with this script, which provides an intriguing and original premise, set in a strong location and any number of possibilities for horror.
The film delves into the father-son relationship of the two leading men, while exploring an unusual story.
When the local Sheriff finds the body of a young woman partially buried in the basement of a house, we’re immediately hooked when one of his deputies tells him that there’s no I.D. for the body, and that all the signs point to someone trying to escape the house rather than break in. The body is subsequently delivered late at night to the local funeral home, run by local coroner Tommy (Cox) and his assistant and son Austin (Hirsch) who are just about to leave for the night.
The sheriff is twitchy, and tells Tommy he needs a COD (cause of death) by the morning or the press are going to be all over him. Cue the ticking clock of the plot, and Austin cancels his plans to meet his girlfriend in order to stay and assist his old dad with the titular autopsy.
By this point, it’s also worth noting that we’ve already been treated to a couple of well-done jump scares, and Austin’s nervous disposition has already been highlighted.
The second act is nicely teased as the autopsy progresses in three defined stages – each offering more bizarre clues than the last as to the identity and COD of the “victim”.
By the time we get to the final section, it’s fairly apparent (at least to me) as to who she is and what’s happened – but maybe I’m a hardened old cynic. Nevertheless, it’s always compulsive viewing, and is paced well with various segues into a few more (very) jumpy moments. If anything lets the film down, it is, perhaps, the final act, which is a little too obvious and “mainstream” in its exposition and execution. But the rest of the film is so well done that this is to be forgiven.
Beautifully lit, shot and directed, The Autopsy Of Jane Doe resonates with both seekers of cheap thrills and those who crave a more intelligent form of horror.
The production design of Matt Gant is also to be noted. He’s done a pretty incredible job of making a realistic environment for the film, especially considering it’s all set in the North East of America, yet was mostly shot in London and the county of Kent in England.
Kudos also to the script writing team of Ian B Goldberg and Richard Naing for crafting not only an original and intriguing premise for the film, but also for their dialogue, which, until the last act, seems almost improvised in its nature. The leading performances are both believable, and there’s ne’er a moment when I wasn’t on edge following the first few scenes.
It’s all set up so well that you will be waiting with baited breath for the next moment of horror – which is what makes this film something really quite special.
The Autopsy Of Jane Doe is a film which will hold enjoyment for all lovers of horror in my opinion, and it’s well worth checking out. And to echo the sentiments of a certain Stephen King on this subject; “Watch it, but not alone”.