Starring: Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch, Ophelia Lovibond
Director: André Øvredal
Running Time: 86 mins
The Autopsy Of Jane Doe is an American film about two coroners who, while performing an autopsy on an unidentified corpse, feel an unsettling presence surrounding them.
For a film that looks to be all set up for a gory and uncomfortable watch, I have to say that I was hugely impressed with how The Autopsy Of Jane Doe panned out in the end. Although not completely perfect right the way through, it’s a piercingly unsettling thriller complete with a bold opening act followed up by intriguing and often even terrifying thrills, managing to take what often seems like a both dull and ridiculous concept and turn it into something really rather spectacular.
Now, I say that this isn’t as gory as I expected, but I still would think twice about watching this movie if you’re at all squeamish. The big difference between this film and so many horrors, however, is that the context in which some of the more gruesome elements are portrayed is so much more level-headed and interesting.
Rather than glorifying gore and violence at any point for cheap thrills, this film takes a very patient approach to creating an unsettling atmosphere with its more gruesome elements – simply by watching two coroners going about their job as they examine a body.
As a result, there’s already somewhat of an uncomfortable vibe as the entire film is set in a morgue, but what really makes the film work is that watching the two go about their business is just really interesting, and not something I can say I’ve ever seen in a film before. Again, it’s not for squeamish people, but simply observing two very skilled professionals examining a corpse in detail really intrigued me, and it proved a bold and impressive opening act that I was thoroughly engrossed by right the way through.
Then the film takes a bit of a turn, arriving at a bit of a make-or-break point in the story. While the opening act is a patient and very level-headed piece, the remainder of the film brings in some more fantastical elements that at first really don’t look like they will work in the same context.
However, with fantastic directing from André Øvredal, the unnerving atmosphere that has been set up so excellently over the course of the first act really starts its work as things become a lot stranger, leading to a very tense and exciting horror-thriller that, while not as deeply intriguing as the first act, is one of the few supernatural horror films I’ve ever watched that have genuinely scared me.
And again, it’s not all about excessive gore or cheesy jumpscares, but a piercing tension that makes it almost impossible to look at the screen, complete with a bewildering feeling that things are all taking place in the real world, as we’ve just witnessed a very down-to-earth and realistic opening act that has firmly seated the whole film in reality, something that very few horror films are able to do effectively, but which works so well here.
As for major issues, I would say that the film lacks the character development to make the threat at hand even more powerful, as Brian Cox’s experienced character seems a little too able – having apparently seen everything before – while Emile Hirsch doesn’t inspire all that much likability, although manages to portray his character’s fear and confusion very well throughout.
Overall, however, The Autopsy Of Jane Doe is a very impressive film that really surprised me. By no means as gruesome as the title suggests, and far more intelligent and effective at creating tension and genuine terror than most other genre films, it’s an engrossing watch from the start that becomes more and more exciting throughout, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.9.