The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) MOVIE DETAILS
Name: The Autopsy of Jane Doe
Year: 2016
Country: USA
Director: André Øvredal
Main cast: Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Olwen Catherine Kelly
Runtime: 86 minutes
Production company: 42, IM Global, Impostor Pictures

A lot of expectation was created with this film. Some voices have called it the horror film of the year. Some others call it a very cheaty movie. But for one reason or the other, any horror movies lover has heard of The Autopsy of Jane Doe. Besides the obvious plot already told by the name of the film, in this review we might end up revealing one or two surprises or vital facts. Therefore, I think it’s fair to notice there will be a little Spoiler Warning.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe is the second american movie by norwegian director André Øvredal. He has explained repeatedly it was after watching James Wan’s The Conjuring (2013) that he saw clear his next work was going to be a dark and mysterious horror film. The main intention was to do something different to what his previous and most notable work until date Troll Hunter (2010) was. So André Øvredal got in contact with his american production team explaining his demands and within a week the script of The Autopsy of Jane Doe was on his hands.

The script was written by Ian B. Goldberg and Richard Naing, who had some previous experience in writing and producing independent short films and TV stuff. And, again in André Øvredal’s words, “everything was already there”. The director has made clear his only work was to turn the text into images, because all the story, all the thrills and facts, they were already written. And after seeing the resulting product, I think it’s fair to say he achieved it.

The casting election was a hit, and in a simple film like this that means half the success. The main star duo works perfectly with Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch playing father and son, both coroners in a small town. Then their aparent tranquility gets truncated when a mysterious corpse arrives to their workshop. An unidentified female body, a Jane Doe. Here I want to mention how great the performance of Olwen Catherine Kelly is, although she plays dead the whole time. But one of the best dead bodies seen in film. With a face and a body that showed beauty and fear in equal ways.

Images and sound are extremelly well treated. A great dominion of the angles, the spaces, the takes. André Øvredal did a great work stealing from the great masters of horror, because visually The Autopsy of Jane Doe is very magnetic. Every time the audience is inside of the autopsy room, inside of the house, wherever the camera is going. And then, mystery increases. The fear of the unknown, of what the fuck we are going to find there, takes us completely.

And here is when I want to place the Spoler Warning. If you have already seen the movie you will be wondering as well: Who or what is this Jane Doe? Is it a witch? Is it Pandora’s Box? Is it just a receptacle of pure evil? We get several theories from the characters along the movie, but at the end we don’t know who is right. I don’t even know with which theory I stay. Maybe she is just a demonic prank, the toy of some spirit force that wants to torture the living. Getting into the minds of men and making them see whatever their darkest fears are. To completelly annihilate our hopes for a good ending and then see how the resolution goes. And after that, after the storm, the calm. This last one is a metaphore very well used in the movie. Every time the coroners dig more into Jane Doe’s corpse, the storm outside the house becomes stronger. The more facts they think they are discovering, the more creepy happenings surround them. And in my opinion, this control of the situations and the audience’s thoughts is what makes this movie so special.

Still, not everything is golden here. The first half of the movie is perfect horror mystery, as described above. But there is a point towards the middle of the action where the story seems to turn into the cheesy arts of any other average easy-frights horror film. The appearance of some strange spirit, or an unknown silhouette walking towards the corridors, only seen on mirrors…. Bah, I don’t know. That was a too easy trick for a movie set in so great atmosphere. The final resolution of the movie leaves everything at its place, and take us back to the early dark mystery story that we had at the beginning. But for around 20 minutes, The Autopsy of Jane Doe drifts. Drifts very very bad. Sadly, that made what was on the way to be the best horror film of the decade into “only” a very good film. But hey, that’s much more we normally get, isn’t it?

Some of the most important filmmakers and authors in the horror genre have praised the exquisiteness of this movie. Edgar Wright, Guillermo del Toro or Stephen King have spoken publicly about their delight with The Autopsy of Jane Doe. At least, that should mean this is for sure a very recommendable movie. And I agree with that.

RATE: 7/10