Thursday, November 2, 2017

#2,452. The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

Directed By: André Øvredal

Starring: Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch, Ophelia Lovibond

Tag line: "Every body has a secret"

Trivia: Martin Sheen was originally cast as Tommy, but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. He was replaced by Brian Cox

I was blown away the first time I saw The Autopsy of Jane Doe, so much so that it not only made my top 10 horror films of 2016, but my overall top 10 list as well. 

Still, I wasn’t sure if it would hold up on repeat viewings; along with its creepier elements (which are plentiful), The Autopsy of Jane Doe is rife with mystery, and many of its early surprises set up the horror that takes over in the final act. Would the film be as effective a second time around? 

The answer is a resounding “yes”.

The nude body of an unidentified young woman (Olwen Kelly) is discovered at the scene of a triple homicide, and it’s up to coroner Tommy Tilden (Brian Cox) and his son/assistant Austin (Emile Hirsch) to determine how she died. 

Shortly after they begin their examination of ”Jane Doe”, the two realize this is no ordinary corpse, and sense that someone – or something – is trying to thwart their efforts. But Tommy refuses to quit, and the closer he and Austin get to learning the truth about Jane Doe, the more dangerous their predicament becomes.

The mystery surrounding Jane Doe is what drives the film’s initial scenes, and each new incision that Tommy and Austin make on the body - each new examination - raises more questions than it answers. Tommy, so well-played by Brian Cox, is a man who deals in facts, but with Jane Doe the “facts” don’t add up. Her lungs are black, as if she’d been burned alive, and her internal organs have scars that suggest she was repeatedly stabbed, yet her body is in pristine condition, showing no outward signs of any trauma. These revelations are, indeed, intriguing, but are far from the autopsy’s most amazing discoveries.

Who is this girl? Where did she come from? How did she die? Tommy and Austin do eventually close in on the answers to these questions, at which point the horror kicks into high gear. Thanks to director André Øvredal, we’re as invested in Jane Doe’s story as his lead characters are, so the film’s sudden turn towards the supernatural feels jarring, to say the least. All at once, The Autopsy of Jane Doe transforms from a perplexing mystery into a nerve-racking experience, and even something as simple as a ringing bell, or a radio that self-tunes to the song “Let the Sun Shine In“, drags us to the edge of our seats.

Like Tommy and Austin, we know these strange goings-on have something to do with the body they’ve been examining, but the big reveal at the end, when we learn the truth about Jane Doe, still catches us off-guard.

Working as both a mystery and a horror film, and with superior performances delivered by its small cast (including Ophelia Lovibond, who has a brief but memorable role as Austin’s girlfriend), The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a motion picture that will stand the test of time, and odds are I’ll enjoy it just as much on my 10th viewing as I did my first and second.

No comments: