I kept hearing about The Autopsy of Jane Doe. Friends of mine would recommend it. It was all over my social media horror pages. Even Stephen King got in on the action and has championed it multiple times. I was just never in the mood for it. I picked it for my 31 Days of Horror so that I would force myself to watch it. Having watched ti I can say – it was not what I was expecting.
Short and Simple
The autopsy of Jane Doe is nearly a single setting story with a fairly small cast. André Øvredal (Troll Hunter, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark) directs this tale of a family owned morgue/coroners office in the rural United States. Brian Cox stars as Tommy, the patriarch of the family who is still struggling with the death of his wife years before. Unsurprisingly, Cox steals every scene he is in. But, Emile Hirsch, who plays Tommy’s son Austin, is no slouch and holds his own as a compelling character. Austin is struggling between spending time with his girlfriend Emma (played by Ophelia Lovebond) and helping his father. Tommy is a brilliant coroner and Austin is well on his way to being just like him. There’s only one problem -he doesn’t want to be a coroner.
Austin is on his way to go on a date with Emma when a body arrives. The small town sheriffs department has just been rocked by a gruesome multiple homicide in a suburban home. The police have no motive and find no evidence of forced entry, what they do find though is the body of a woman half buried in the families basement. The body is sent to Tommy and Austin with a strict deadline. The sheriff needs answers by the morning. Austin tells a disappointed but understanding Emma that they will have to postpone their date.
Things go awry
Once the autopsy begins though, it is obvious that something is not right. And that’s all I will tell you. Part of the fun of The Autopsy of Jane Doe is the discovery. The movie plays out almost like a forensic detective story but with supernatural overtones.
I had avoided Jan Doe because, I was somehow under the impression of it being a slow burn horror movie. I like slow burn horror, I really do, but it requires a certain amount of time and patience. Maybe it was people talking about the small scale or the strong sense of atmosphere in the movie that led me to believe that. All of which is true by the way. The movie oozes atmosphere and feels very intimate with its single setting and small cast. Wherever I got that idea, though, I was dead wrong. Jane Doe is a taught, engaging horror thriller that doesn’t skimp on the horror.
While the mystery of the body, the titular Jane Doe, is the heart of the first two acts the movie moves beyond that. Everything is wrapped up neatly and there is no ambiguity to the events or their causes. That is both a pro and a con though.
The briskness and completeness of the story makes it an easy watch. However, the rather streamlined plot also makes it a bit hard to care about the characters. As good as Cox and Hirsch are, there just isn’t a lot to there characters. The movie as a result feels a little flat a points. It is never bad exactly. Far from it, it is a well made and highly enjoyable film. But, it is a little hollow. There is no deeper meaning, no commentary on humanity, nothing really below the surface.
Not every movie needs to have more. There is nothing wrong with a movie simply being entertaining. And as far as good old fashion spooky stories go, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is one of the best in recent memories. However, a little more depth would have pushed this from a really good movie to a great one.
A fun and engrossing thriller. A little more substance would have been nice but this is a lean, all killer no filler, style horror movie. It is perfect for a Halloween horror movie marathon with friends.
Recommended if you like:
Mysteries (particularly forensic science), movies about hauntings, movies about the occult/witches, movies like Don’t Breath, From the Dark, The Hallows, Ringu/The Ring.