The Autopsy Of Jane Doe

Every other week we are presented with another low budget horror film that is trying to capture some of the success and the financial rewards of the likes of The Conjuring and Insidious. Unless the movie wants to get lost in the crowd it has to have a strong selling point. In the case of The Autopsy Of Jane Doe it is the setting.  At the best of times morgues are not the most inviting of places and here the it actually feels as if it is a character itself.

The local sheriff arrives the town mortuary with the body of a teenage girl. She has been found partially dug up at the site of a murder and the police are under pressure to come up with an explanation for both the body and the killing. It is late and the father and son mortuary staff (Brian Cox and Emile Hirsh) are closing up for the evening. Reluctantly they agree to carry out an autopsy on the body. As they begin to examine the girl is becomes apparent that things are not as clear as they should be. Certain indicators to ascertain time and cause of death are missing. As they begin to open up the body it only starts to get stranger.

The film is two thirds of a brilliant story. The opening sequence sets up the body. In the house where she is found there is several dead bodies and a lot of blood. In contrast to the scenes of devastation within the outside of the house is tranquil and undisturbed. Effective and creepy. Moving to the morgue we get a view of the Father and Son working together. It gives an insight into their relationship and their surroundings. The  morgue is below ground and is obviously old and tired. The halls are lined with dark wood panelling giving a gloomy and oppressive feeling even before the story unfolds.

When the body arrives and the autopsy begins a number of factors ramp up the tension. The first is the body itself. Pale and unmarked, Jane Doe looks almost serene. The addition of  the harsh lighting and the sombre score playing underneath the dialogue resulting in the mood being subtly altered. At this point the audience is fully engaged with the story. Using standard procedural methods how she died. the pair then start to examine and determine the cause of death.

Unfortunately the pay off in the third act does not live up to the subtle and intelligent set up. The film falls into standard horror tropes that, although scary at times, relies on jump scares and some stupid decisions on the part of the protagonists. It doesn’t fit well with what has gone before. The characters are built up to be intelligent, thoughtful and methodical. When they start to falter it just feels wrong.

For the majority of the run time there are only two speaking parts. Both actors acquit themselves very well. Brian Cox is good in everything he is involved in. Here he is the wise and controlled father. His performance exudes calmness and understanding. The son, played by Emile Hirsch, has ambitions beyond the morgue. He feels he has an obligation to his father and this is conveyed in the way the two interact rather than anything that is said between them.

Although slightly disappointing in its ending, The Autopsy Of Jane Doe is still worth a watch.


John McArthur
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