The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a very creepy film that excels in its storytelling and vibrant horror atmosphere. The film is treated as a murder mystery that evolves into a haunting ghost movie, with the body of a recently unearthed Jane Doe (Kelly) at the center of all of it. André Øvredal is proving to be one of the most talented horror filmmakers working today, what with this film and the underrated Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I really gotta sit down and watch Trollhunter.
A father and son coroner, Tommy (Cox) and Austin Tilden (Hirsch), are brought a mysterious Jane Doe in the middle of the night, right before a vicious storm is about to tear through the area. They can't seem to find a cause of death, mostly because the exterior of the body is completely unscathed, while the body's organs are horribly scarred. What the hell happened to this girl? How did she die? How was she killed like this? These are the big questions that keep you guessing until the end, where the explanation and twist will blow your mind. It's one of the most creative left turns I've seen in years, especially in horror.
The entire film is a slow but intriguing burn that keeps you invested because of the layers of mystery that continue to grow throughout. Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch are fantastic, and the scares are wild and unpredictable. This is shaping up to be a genuine cult classic, and I can't think of any reason a horror buff wouldn't enjoy it.
Shortly after the success of Trollhunter, director André Øvredal was looking to make his first English language movie. And, not just the same thing either. But something different from what he did before. Hence, how we got The Autopsy of Jane Doe. Whereas his first film was a fun found footage affair featuring vicious trolls as the monster, this film would be a more traditionally shot horror film borrowing from the paranormal/exorcism subgenre. But, with a twist. Now, considering the more widespread recognition of Trollhunter and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, this film has, unfortunately, gone a bit under the radar. Luckily, though, it has gained a pretty strong word of mouth and become something a cult hit amongst the horror community. After watching it, I can see why.
Jane Doe starts as a seemingly standard type of paranormal horror film. As the morgue workers investigate the body to find out what happened, spooky stuff starts to happen. It’s not until they find out what’s going on with the body that the audience is let in on this being far more than your standard ghost story. As a director, Øvredal does a tremendous job of not letting the cat out of the bag until he is ready for it to. There’s a reason he’s becoming one of my favorite horror directors. As you could probably tell by the cast list, this is also a very well-acted horror film as well. Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch are especially good as the father and son. They give performances that make you really root for their escape from the horrors brought upon them. I also have to commend Olwen Kelly as the titular Jane Doe. Yes, she plays a dead, naked corpse the whole movie. But, that’s still not easy on an actress to be exposed like that and she does a great job.
For his second feature, Øvredal really knocks it out of the park once again. He found a way to make what should have been just another paranormal ghost story into something much more unique and creative. The actors all help with great performances and the film is pretty damn creepy to boot. If you’ve only seen this director’s most recent film, I encourage to seek this one out too. And, if you don’t mind subtitles, Trollhunter also.