Synopsis: An unknown body lies on the autopsy table of father and son coroners, but as they begin cutting away the layers of skin, the mystery of her identity grows.
Director: André Øvredal
Starring: Brian Cox, Emile Hirsh, Olwen Kelly
Review: The Autopsy of Jane Doe was on my ‘to watch’ list long before it was released and I was so excited to finally see it (then do a rewatch for this review!). I didn’t know what to expect and made sure I avoided too many spoiler-filled reviews before seeing it. And what a joy! After far too many naf, gimmick-filled, generic horrors, here is something different which I genuinely enjoyed.
The film builds atmosphere slowly, from the opening scenes where a body is found to the underground mortuary where most of the film is set. There is plenty of ‘watch from behind the cushion’ moments with jumpy frights and tension-filled hiding out which are the making of any good horror film. There’s also the mystery aspect of who this ‘Jane Doe’ actually is which takes up quite a bit of the film. It’s uncovered slowly, with new details being revealed with each slice of the coroner’s scalpel and is a reflection on the editing that these sections didn’t drag or slow down the pacing of the movie.
There are a number of creepy and unsettling scenes and kudos must be paid to Øvredal for making use of what I’m assuming was a relatively small space so effectively. The film is mostly set in the mortuary which gives it a good claustrophobic feel and means the characters don’t have that many places to hide when trouble comes knocking (or in this case ringing a little bell!). The autopsy itself feels very intimate and maybe a little gruesome for some viewers. A special mention to the music which adds to the atmosphere without being intrusive (some movies I’ve seen recently seem to rely on a heavy music score to tell viewers how to feel. That’s not the case here where the music adds to the story, without dominating).
I liked the father/son dynamic between Cox and Hirsh, although the relationship with the girlfriend and the ‘will the son follow into the family business’ storyline was a slight distraction from the main story for me and I don’t think the movie would have suffered had these not been included.
I’ve not seen much of Emile Hirsh but his work in this movie made me a fan and Brian Cox is, well Brian Cox, you don’t need me to say how good he is. Olwen Kelly doesn’t get a huge amount of action but does bring a level of malevolence to the scenes she is in.
Overall, I’d say this is likely to become a classic. It’s definitely made it onto my personal ‘Halloween Rewatch’ list.