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The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
Directed by: Andre Ovredal
Starring: Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch, Ophelia Lovibond
Rated: R for Bloody Horror Violence, Unsettling Grisly Images, Graphic Nudity, and Language
Running Time: 1 h 26 m
TMM Score: 3 stars out of 5
STRENGTHS: Brian Cox, Effects, Atmosphere, Simplicity of Story
WEAKNESSES: Emile Hirsch, Some Dialogue
A father and son coroner team performs an autopsy on a body of an unknown woman discovered at a crime scene, only to find her body harbors some grim secrets.
In some television series, they have episodes that take place primarily in one location; bottle episodes, they call them. Often times, these types of episodes are done for primarily budgetary reasons, but every once in a while, you get a bottle episode that really sticks with you. I myself find bottle episodes rather entertaining. It’s sort of a challenge to create a compelling story that can stand alone with one location, with a locked number of characters, and usually, in a short time period. Aside from the opening minute or two, which takes place at a crime scene, this film takes place entirely in a morgue run by a father and son. The plot itself is simple, and the characters have all been established by ten minutes into the film. The fun comes from the twists, turns and little revelations that come rapidly. At only an hour and twenty-six minutes long, this movie is paced quickly, it’s incredibly gruesome, and it’s certainly a mysterious and creepy ride. This film feels like a short story written by Stephen King, and when I’m looking for a decent horror flick, that’s not a bad mark to aim for.
"For now, she's a Jane Doe."
(SOME SPOILERS IN THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH)
After three bodies are discovered in a home, one of them unidentifiable, a sheriff brings the unidentified body to a morgue, where Tommy (Brian Cox, X-Men 2) and Austin (Emile Hirsch, Into the Wild), a father-son coroner team, perform an autopsy on the body, hoping to learn its secrets. As the autopsy begins, Tommy and Austin are startled to discover that the woman has horrific internal injuries that don’t reflect on the surface of the woman’s skin.
I’m a low-key horror fanatic. I don’t swoon over huge revivals of 80s horror franchises or remakes of Universal Monster movies, nor do I eagerly await the month of October for it’s flood of schlocky low-budget horror features. What I do is I keep my ear to the rail, pretty much all the time, for any horror films that get relatively decent reviews. If it even gets lukewarm critical response, I’ll probably give it a shot. So when my roommate recommended this film to me saying, “Yeah, that was pretty good.” I figured that recommendation was good enough for me (especially when I have to review thirty one horror movies by October). As a horror fan, you sort of have to get used to the gore or you don’t last very long. In fact, gory films have become something of their own subgenre thanks to Cronenberg’s body horror entries, and films like Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive or Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead franchise. This film is remarkably gory, something that will attract some viewers and deter others. I’ve watch horror films from both ends of the gore-spectrum, and really I have no issue with either end of the spectrum; gore can be humorous as well as terrifying, it’s all in the way you use it. In this film, the gore is played rather straight. The movie itself is about an autopsy, so we’re shown all the grisly details of Jane Doe’s organs at length. If you are not all right with rather gruesome imagery, I’d steer clear of this one. While certain elements of the grisly organs remind me of something from Cronenberg, I wouldn’t go so far as to call this a body horror film; gore and guts are used like clues. The graphic nature is meant to disturb and shock you, sure, but it’s also needed to propel the story forward in a way that isn’t hinging on shock value alone. The gore in this movie is extremely realistic, and the prosthetics are probably the best part of the film.
I thought Brian Cox did a fine job in this film. He came off as very fatherly, though slightly strange (which makes sense, considering he’s a coroner). I never really have a problem with Brian Cox, I think he’s always a perfectly fine actor- never overly impressive, but never so horrible that I can’t stand him. His performance in this was much the same as I feel about him in every other film; he did fine. Not remarkable, not terrible. Just fine. Emile Hirsch always bugs me, though. I don’t know what it is, he’s just one of those actors that, for me, always comes off as incredibly cheesy and overacted. Towards the end of the film, when the story is really ramping up, Hirsch has a few moments of panic, and those were easily the weakest moments of the film. His acting in those moments of tension is almost laughable, and he took me out of the movie a few times when I should’ve been most invested. I think Hirsch is fine as a background, secondary character (he was fine in Milk), but as a lead, he’s rather blasé and boring. He’s an actor that I frequently forget was in certain movies because he doesn’t have enough charisma to draw attention to himself. His performance in this film steadily degraded until the end of the film. It was never enough to make me hate the movie, because some of the elements were enough to keep me invested, but he was easily the weakest part of this movie.
I like the simplicity of this film, the attention to detail when it came to the graphic nature of the autopsy, and I liked the pacing and the twists. This is a fun little bottle movie that works well for the most part. It’s not a movie that will be remembered in twenty years, but it’s a film that’s worth watching if you’ve got some time to kill and you’re looking for a few thrills. This is no Hereditary or Exorcist; it’s a low budget horror film that’s slightly less schlocky and slightly smarter than the run of the mill horror flick.
This is part of our 31 Nights of Thrills Series. Not all of the movies we review for this series will be strictly horror, but all will have something to do with the spirit of things spooky or scary. If you like those types of movies, be sure to check back throughout the month of October!
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