When we start something, we finish it!
Starring : Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch and Olwen Kelly
So after taking a few days to rest after writing more than 35,000 words for my end of year review, I decided to jump at the chance to watch “The Autopsy of Jane Joe”, a film that I saw the trailer of some time ago.
This film is one that is actually seemingly known on an ok basis in America as it has a decent amount of votes for a relatively new film, but over in my native UK I couldn’t find anyone that had even seen a trailer, so when I got the unexpected chance to watch and review it, I thought why not.
Readers of this site will know that I’m not really big on horror films, they’re overly predictable and easily replicated. There are very rarely any horror films that I find entertaining, and there was only one release at the cinema in 2016 that I found interesting and that was “The Witch”, which finished at number eleven in my top one hundred.
What looks interesting about “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” is that I can’t recall seeing another film like it, so there is an least a seeming originality about it, and I that proves to be correct.
Plot : Austin (Hirsch) and Tommy (Cox) are a father/son team of morticians that are given an unusual case one night. The body of an unknown woman (Kelly) is wheeled into their autopsy room after being found buried by several layers of soil. There are no outwardly obvious signs of anything that would kill her, although her wrists and ankles are both fractured. What makes it even more obvious is that despite being dead for seemingly some time, rigor mortis has not set in, and bloody rushes to the surface when they cut into her to start the autopsy.
Despite being perfectly normal on the outside, the body is beaten, bruised and heavily scarred on the inside, with lungs that are more burnt that someone who smoked consistently for thirty years, and a rag contained within her intestines that is perfectly in tact, that despite the fact it should have been easily dissolved by the stomach acid.
Pretty soon unusual events start occuring, such as doors opening by themselves, people being seen in panoramic mirrors that simply aren’t there, and more worrying, electricity failing around the building, trapping the pair inside.
So, is it original and a surprisingly good horror movie?
There is definitely something different about “The Autopsy of Jane Doe”, and whilst there is a reliance on jump scares that seems overwhelmingly familiar, there is the uncommon element of suspense that you don’t get often in the genre. I found myself intrigued by what was on show throughout the film and it is very far from boring. You’re there with the characters throughout, learning as they learn. The film feeds you bit of information in pieces, meaning that you never have the full picture as an audience member until the end. This is different from a lot of horror films that give you too much information early on.
I think that is one of the problems with a lot of horror films these days, they’re too keen to get the information to you that there is no real way to actually feel like the next surprise could be just around the corner. For example, there were quite a few horror films in the 80-71 section of my look at 2016 and not a single one of them tried to build as it went along, with only the first and third act really proving even remotely (and I do use that word very generously) interesting and good for development, whereas “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” concentrates on building the two central characters in the first act, and having the second and third acts to build momentum and establish the information.
It would be hard to think that a film set largely in one room and only has two characters (well, characters that are alive at least) that feature prominently could be as intriguing as I’m making it sound, but it is like an 86 minute puzzle, and each piece makes you more curious, so much to the point where it isn’t until the very end that it all fits together. Whilst the ending is a little out there, it certainly isn’t predictable and I never saw it coming, nor the origins of the body. It was very refreshing to be surprised by the ending to a horror film.
Cox and Hirsch make an interesting double team and whilst I don’t believe for a second that they make a convincing father-son combination on screen, they do at least have a decent enough chemistry, which is again something that can be rarely said about some other films from the genre.
My only real issue with “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” is the aforementioned jump scares, which are most definitely used to no real benefit to the story. They have made it tense in places with other scenes, such as when you can hear the bell tagged to a corpse slowly ringing closer and closer, but they then counter that with unnecessary jump scares.
Oh well, can’t have everything.
Whilst “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” is far from perfect, the aspects that make it like a puzzle that needs to put together sets it apart from most other horror films that I have seen recently. You learn as the characters learn, and you certainly aren’t force-fed information like a lot of horror films.
This is certainly one of the better efforts in the genre in recent years.