The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a simple and well executed thriller that cleverly spins a tale of mystery into a procedural of horrors, but loses steam halfway where it succumbs to watered down cliches.
It’s just another night at the morgue for a father (Brian Cox) and son (Emile Hirsch) team of coroners, until an unidentified, highly unusual corpse comes in. Discovered buried in the basement of the home of a brutally murdered family, the young Jane Doe—eerily well preserved and with no visible signs of trauma—is shrouded in mystery. As they work into the night to piece together the cause of her death, the two men begin to uncover the disturbing secrets of her life.
Human beings are inherently curious creatures that we don’t or couldn’t know, scares us more than what’s in front of us. The Autopsy of Jane Doe, from the title itself, combines the fear of the unknown and our desire to know it.
The autopsy turns the movie into procedural, where clues are the grisly aftermath of violence on a woman’s body. Using the methodical medical process and the inherent spookiness of a basement morgue, The Autopsy of Jane Doe sets an eerie and claustrophobic tone. Like one of those creepy news reports of unsolved cases, you are immediately hooked in. Every clue leads to questions and a myriad of possibilities run through your head.
The make-up, art and sound department deserves praise as the autopsy is morbidly accurate and paints a picture of what happened to Jane Doe. It’s cringe-inducing but not exploitative.
Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch delivers a believable father and son dynamic as the Tildens try to figure out what happened. Cox lends some gravitas to the proceedings which gives us this clever juxtaposition of science uncovering something bizarre and supernatural, effectively making the autopsy ambiguous. While Olwen Catherine Kelly is completely still throughout the movie, her performance shouldn’t be discounted as she still feels like a character.
While the Autopsy of Jane Doe proves to be an interesting twist to the a mysterious discovery and the unfortunate souls who uncover it narrative, the movie later on devolves into a predictable B-movie horror show.
Run-of-the-mill horror set-ups soon follow such as the elevator scare and foggy encounter. The jump scares here aren’t anything new either. Eventually convenient plot points take over the whole story.
It doesn’t help that Austin and Tommy are thinly defined characters. Both are facing personal issues that the narrative could have used, but are dumped in the midsection and tossed away.
The movie ends with a predictable finish. The Autopsy of Jane Doe starts with an original idea, but deflates halfway to follow a tired and tested course.
In spite of these flaws, The Autopsy of Jane Doe still boasts of a unique spin to a familiar narrative. It’s still an engaging mystery thriller with amazing practical effects that cleverly uses your curiosity and imagination, which are arguably the scariest horror devices of all.
My Rating: 6.5/10