Autopsy of Jane Doe, The (2016)
Cast: Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch, Ophelia Lovibond
Director: André Øvredal
Nutshell: Every autopsy has a story to tell….Jane Doe’s story is one you don’t want to know! Tense, effective and genuinely scary.
With the passage of time, horror movies must evolve in order to retain their potency though there are basic elementary “rules” that have remained constant over the years. Rules like less is always more and to never reveal too much of your monster and to let the audiences imagination run amok with its own dark thoughts. The 70s wave of horror was rebounding off the horrors of the Vietnam war that had bought some of the visceral horrors of war into middle class America’s living rooms.
Horror films evolved to reflect other real life horrors and we had a wave of economic recession oriented horror movies followed more recently with the post 9/11 wave of horrors with zombie invasions and the Saw/Hostel movies and torture porn as a grim reminder of Abu Ghraib. Everything eventually grows familiar and horror movies have the burden of attempting to put a new twist on the old wheel in order to remain relevant and effective.
Old wine in new bottles is very much the way to go, but it has to be presented with a slant that is unfamiliar and thus leaves its audience on unfamiliar ground. In horror movies, unfamiliar is half the battle won. So here you have what is in essence a good old fashioned Haunted House ghost story but with a fresh twist that takes a classic horror genre and cooks it up as a new recipe with fresh, potent spices infusing the old pudding with some wonderful new flavours to savour.
The film starts with a suburban house visited by a brutal crime and blood splattered corpses litter the once pristine home that now resembles a war-zone. One body is discovered in the basement, half buried and without a scratch anywhere on the body nor any visible drop of blood. There is no sign of whom she might have been and appears to be unconnected to the inhabitants of the house. Tellingly one of the cops that discovers the body remarks that this corpse is totally unlike the others who all appeared to be somehow desperate to get out.
The corpse of this Jane Doe is wheeled into a mortuary run by a father and son team with the son very much the green member of the duo and the father very much the gnarled old expert. Together they listen to rock music while dismantling their cadavers and while doing so discovering the tale of their demise. Each corpse has a story to tell and the autopsy is that revelation. Jane Doe’s case is perplexing though and as the father son team unravel the truth about her, the more they are plunged into a spiralling world of appalling horror. Her story is about to become their story with terrifying results.
The movie draws its viewer slowly in as the puzzle of Jane Doe is slowly unearthed with increasing tension and unease. The acting remains rock solid as the shocks start to mount with one or two capable of startling even the most jaded horror movie veteran. The last half hour lays it on thick and for a moment or two the film degenerates into familiarity but not enough to stop it from being elevated to among the most effective and scary films of the last few years and easily surpassing the increasingly familiar tales spun by the current king of the horror scene James Wan.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe effectively and quite brilliantly takes an old horror sub genre and rearranges or even remixes it to delightful effect and the result is one of the most effective mainstream horror films to emerge for a while. Most entertaining and dare we say, even rather scary.