The Autopsy of Jane Doe,
Directed by André Øvredal,
Starring Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Ophelia Lovibond
Horror chiller starring Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch and directed by Norwegian helmer André Øvredal (who brought us Troll Hunter, reviewed back here on the blog)). When a mysterious unknown corpse, known as Jane Doe, is brought into the local mortuary/coroner’s office in a small American County all hell breaks lose.
There is a place in me that loves the run of the mill horrors that know the rules, the ones that no matter what know their history and know how to bring the audience off their seats. The Autopsy of Jane Doe knows what it is, it knows how to make you jump, so please don’t take run of the mill as a bad sign here. When it comes to the horror genre good pickings are slim on the ground, so when someone comes along that knows what they are doing, it’s time to sit up and rejoice.
The film has a few problems though; there are a few moments when a little more explanation could have gone a long way, you fill in the blanks as you know what is going on as we’re horror fans. In some ways, as much as this bothered me I liked the lack of knowledge about Jane too. If you look at Jeepers Creepers’ monster there was very little in the way of understanding the origin and cause, but that remains, along with the sequel, one of my guilty late night pleasures. Though it would have been easier here to inform the viewer about Jane’s history, how she ended up in the house where we meet her. A little precursor to the film would have made all the difference for me.
What I liked about The Autopsy of Jane Doe is the character building that takes place. Brian Cox as the Medical Examiner, basically Quincy for those of us of a certain age. He’s happy to be sharing the work with his son Hirsch, but still grieving the loss of his wife. Cox is an inspired choice for this role; a lesser actor wouldn’t be able to give the depth, to what basically is the horror fodder we all know is likely to undergo something awful before the final act. But it’s the psychological manipulation that drives The Autopsy of Jane Doe to the above-average mark. Hirsch plays the Son perfectly, wanting to be there for his Father after the death of dear old Mom, but also wanting to leave this one horse town to start his own life with his gutsy girlfriend. The Jane Doe is played by Olwen Kelly, and she has little to nothing to do, very honestly little to nothing, just laying there for the running time being cut open and pawed by fellow performers takes a lot of patience. It sounds funny to give Ms. Kelly props, but actor friends tell me that just laying there and convincingly playing dead takes just as much talent as given a great monologue. I’ll believe them.
The script and direction could have done with a little bit of cleaning up and tightening during the explanation of Jane and her horrors. But I give credit where it is due for the level of time given to creating the world of this chiller. The characters aren’t paper thin like most films in the genre, and there is a lot of time spent showing the care and attention to the details that the Medical Examiners have to show to prove the truth of a persons death. I laughed when Brian Cox talked about the last movie he went to see with his wife and then was instantly saddened by the look in his eyes when he remembered that she wasn’t around to go to the movies with any more; it’s Cox and his acting skills bring out the emotion in his character and empathy in the audience. It’s little details that raise this film from the ordinary hum drum horror to the above average. This is worth checking out if you get the chance, perfectly suitable for home viewing with the lights out, or in the cinema. Fans of horror will find a lot to like here.