‘The Autopsy of Jane Doe’ released to critical acclaim, the illustrious Lionsgate Studios have once again dug up a movie set to please both genre fans and more casual viewers alike. With unsettling visuals, a unique plot and some genuine scares, this film has to be one of the home video highlights so far this year.
The plot opens up in a funeral parlour as we are introduced to the two morticians, a father and son team, whom we will be spending the next 90 minutes with. The police bring in a body of a young girl found buried at a residence where, in other areas of the property, lie the victims of an unexplained domestic murder. Despite being buried in the ground, with multiple internal traumas, there are no external signs of struggle and with the crime scene refusing to offer up its secrets the police feel that the answer lies with the cause of death of the titular Jane Doe.
And they are right! Kick start the horror… (which incidentally begins to wind up the tension in a somewhat frantic form right from the get go).
If an underground mortuary wasn’t enough, and a storm of biblical proportion bellowing overhead, our ill-fated protagonists must work through the dead of the night to solve the mystery. To reiterate, it doesn’t take long before some sinister goings on reveal a peril, whilst an ongoing exposition provided as part of the autopsy procedure keep us locked in an almost perpetual state of terror and intrigue as far as the story is concerned. Indeed, the plot of this movie really forms the back bone of this super-effective chiller.
Clever pacing does well to keep the suspense going, and whilst eventually the tension gives into familiar horror territory by the end, it has a good go at keeping things fresh up to say the one hour mark. This is most definitely to the film’s credit. Whilst there are leanings to more modern horror convention in the latter scenes, I felt completely in the dark so to speak as the plot moved forward, and more importantly I had no idea where the threat was coming from; and neither did the characters to the same effect. This really messed with me. I have watched countless horror films and I enjoy being scared, but this film properly got to me. It had a restrained subtly in the first couple of acts which had me in a choke hold.
Its effectiveness helped no end by the consistent and strong performances by the two leads played by Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch who play Tommy and Austin respectively. They were down to earth and relatable – ultimately, they didn’t deserve what befell them which added a cold, cruel edge to the films already clinical aesthetics. The scares come thick and fast, some chilling moments, some silent ‘breathe holding’ moments and some effective jump scares. It’s not quite an onslaught ala ‘Insidious’ but nor was it quite as brooding as something like ‘Sinister’ – perhaps something in the middle? Either way, it worked for me. For one hour I was shitting myself, and it was only in the final act of the film I could relax a little and things got into a more recognisable territory.
Indeed, it feel that it is at this juncture my minor criticism of the film can be appropriately discussed. I did feel that, despite an outstanding build-up and the unique edge, the film became disproportionately swayed by more ‘mainstream’ conventions towards the end of the film. It is my humble opinion that some of the films tightknit plot and expertly crafted tension was compromised a little to make room for some pretty tried and tested plot twists and ‘scares’. Personally, I could have seen this movie’s grim atmosphere hold right to the end – see films such as ‘Inside’ and ‘Martyrs’ for where I’m coming from here.
That said, overall, my final paragraph offers nothing more than a critique, as a horror film this is a definite must see. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and indeed, despite my final comment this has to be one of my favourite movies released this year. It is scary, very scary if you have a nervous disposition as I have. It’s another example of how much ground you can make with just skill in the craft of atmosphere and tension, after all, a jump scare is a jump scare, how much of a punch they pack, well that’s the difference between a shooting a movie and making a movie.