This movie fell on my radar from a result of my Amazon browsing history. I’m not sure what screwed up little algorithm determined that I’m down with autopsies, but I’m okay with it. Emile Hirsch is the son of a coroner (Brian Cox, who I cannot un-see as Captain O’Hagan in Super Troopers) that is reluctant to carry on the family business. A mysterious corpse is discovered and sent to the father/son duo for an autopsy. This is where the real story begins and as good of a place as any for me to begin my spoiler-free dissection of The Autopsy of Jane Doe.
The Good: First of all, I hate Emile Hirsch. I don’t know if it’s his face or that I first saw him in The Girl Next Door which for reasons I won’t go into here, I also hated. Even with that, all the characters in this were very likable. I was shocked to find myself sympathizing with him throughout the movie and wanting him to run off with his girlfriend. Brian Cox played a wonderful role in being the stern yet understanding father. These two come off as natural being paired as father and son, which shows some excellent casting decisions. The way that the two communicate with each other feels completely real and like a normal exchange between an experienced coroner and his novice son. Also, kudos Olwen Kelly, who played Jane Doe and laid naked on a table for what I’m sure was quite a good while.
The story is a healthy mix of mystery, suspense and horror that becomes darker the more it unfolds. If you haven’t read any other reviews or heard anything about the film from anyone else, you’ll probably find yourself guessing what’s going on until near the end. The mystery in this film isn’t so concealed that you won’t figure it out from what they uncover, but it’s still a little bit of thought you’ll have to put in.
The atmosphere left nothing to be desired. It’s dark, dreary and rainy – Everything you want to experience in a horror movie. Which lends itself well to the overall creepiness of a morgue. It also didn’t rely on jump scares which they could have easily done with the atmosphere of a morgue. It was refreshing to see them take the more psychological approach to this movie rather than the popular approach of, “Ohh, a spooky dead body just jumped out!”
The Bad: The Autopsy of Jane Doe while certainly atmospheric, has moments that the scenes seem deliberately obvious in how they plan on scaring you next. The story itself isn’t necessarily predictable but I would have liked to see a bit more creativity when it came to how they executed the “scare” scenes. The focus tends to linger on areas that you know will eventually be seen again and thus comes off less a surprise when it finally happens. On the flip side, there’s a very unpredictable moment as well that takes it from an already supernatural concept to being something completely unbelievable. Without spoiling it, if you’re like me, you’ll know when the moment happens you’ll be left wondering how the fuck it happened at all.
The ending left something to be desired for me as well. I was looking for something definitive, although the mark of most horror films is to leave it open for the future. Unfortunately, this film leaves the door wide open so that if they wanted to expand further they can. I’ll get on my soap box here and say that for once I wish a horror movie would just give a good solid finale that wraps everything up with a sense of permanence.
The Judgment: All things considered, this movie didn’t disappointment me. There were good solid characters and a wonderfully crafted atmosphere. It was also nice to see some mystery shrouding a horror story without giving too many cliché answers. If you’re a horror nut, you’ll probably be ahead of the curve and be able to guess where the story is headed and be able to predict most of the scares. If you’re not, you may be surprised in the direction it takes. Overall, I think it’s a film definitely worth your time and great for a stormy night inside.