Movie Review: The Autopsy Of Jane Doe

The Autopsy of Jane Doe is directed by Andre Ovredal and written by Ian B. Goldberg and Richard Naing and stars Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Olwen Catherine Kelly, and Ophelia Lovibond.

This film is almost unintentionally porn for necrophiliacs. The corpse is obviously a live actress (played by Olwen Kelly), but she does a great job of looking and playing dead. Excellent make-up job as well. As the film involves an autopsy; she is of course naked—the whole time. Because you really do not play dress up with a corpse…unless you do, in which case I recommend a Cabbage Patch doll or something instead. Just a suggestion. So I guess anyone who is into the idea of sex with a corpse should know that: 1. you disgust me and 2. You should get your box of tissues ready (if you know what I mean and I think that you do because you want to have sex with a corpse, or watch someone have sex with a corpse, or something not healthy involving a corpse).

Now that I have catered to my extensive necrophiliac readership let me say that The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a truly great horror film. I loved it and for fans of supernatural horror (who want more than the most recent James Wan offering—not a complaint about James Wan but variety is nice), I cannot recommend it highly enough. I say without hesitation that it is the first film I have seen in a long time which actually frightened me. For a significant portion of the film I was genuinely scared. I think that some of the best horror films allow the setting to become a “character”. Look at The Exorcist, The Shining, The Thing, Ernest Goes to Camp etc. With The Autopsy of Jane Doe you basically have a tense situation in a claustrophobic setting and two fine actors to help carry the film. The actors are Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox. Brian Cox is widely recognized as being a very good actor but Emile Hirsch does not necessarily have the same reputation. He is not considered to be a bad actor per se, but he does not really receive the respect he deserves. I thought he was great as a young version of real-life skate legend Jay Adams in “Lords of Dogtown” but I think here is where he really shines as an adult actor. He plays an average guy in a very odd situation. He does an excellent job carrying himself alongside Brian Cox—not an easy achievement. The two are morticians who also happen to be father and son.

Here’s a short spoiler-free synopsis: a body comes into the morgue and strange things start happening almost immediately. The corpse has some “secrets” to reveal and the morticians end up trapped in the morgue with Jane Doe. What makes this film so great is that it is many ways performance driven—their actions and reactions bring the fear. Top-notch acting is something which is often lacking in horror films—actors of the caliber of Ellen Burstyn in The Exorcist for example are not exactly jumping at the chance to work in the horror genre. Many still look at horror as the place where careers begin and eventually end. Give it 20 years and Jennifer Aniston will be back for Leprechaun Part 42. No cheap jump scares here. No sudden deafeningly loud noises to get a reaction. You get the idea. There are some special effects (both practical and CGI) but the fear the film delivers is really about the steadily mounting tension which the actors display so well.

This film made a few “Best of 2016” lists but I believe it would’ve been on many more lists if it had been released just a bit earlier in the year. Bad timing, but it is fortunately good enough that it will not be forgotten. You need to see this. It is original, avoiding the obvious clichés, and one of the most impressive things about the film is the outstanding pacing. I cannot stress how important I feel pacing is within a horror film. It can make a film or destroy it. Sometimes a slow burn is the way to go but other times not so much. This is paced perfectly. It hits a great combination of a slower ‘80’s style pace and the more rapid pacing of 21st century horror films. The filmmakers really know when to ramp it up and then when to pull back.

I already said it, but I will say it again: you need to see this. Stop binge watching Stranger Things (just for one night) and spend some time with Jane Doe. You’ll thank me, or you’ll hate because I have offended you by bringing up your bizarre sexual predilection. Stay away from the cemetery you weirdo. Currently available on VOD. – Dan MacNeil

Distributor: IFC Midnight

Run Time: 86 minutes

Rating: R

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