Written by J. Weagle
Every body has a secret.
There is nothing I love more than going into a horror film completely blind, where my expectations are in check and I can simply soak in whatever the film has to offer. That was my experience with The Autopsy of Jane Doe, having only just watched the trailer (which thankfully gives little to nothing away) and I could not have been any more pleased with what I got.
Perhaps more so than a horror The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a mystery that builds and slowly unravels a new clue or piece to the puzzle until the very end where it is all revealed to you and makes you question everything you just watched. It’s a film that I would argue almost demands a re-watch, sure the outcome will be spoiled for you but seeing just how well the filmmakers sprinkled clues throughout would be interesting to see.
The film follows a father and son team, they are both coroners working late one night when a new corpse is brought in by the police. We know this corpse is connected somehow to a brutal crime scene seen in the opening moments of the film, but it is up to the father (Brian Cox) and his son (Emile Hirsch) to figure out why. As they dig deeper (literally) into the corpse they discover something more sinister and violent than they could have ever imagined. From the opening moments I was hooked, and favorably the film plays out its first half like a dark David Fincher-esque murder thriller until it takes a big turn at the end. Like the characters on screen I was trying to piece everything together, looking at the clues and making my own judgement before it was fully revealed which in my opinion is a sign of the plot working perfectly.
It’s a rather small sized movie, having us stuck with the Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox in a small room for most of its run time. Both actors do a great job with Brian Cox stealing the show as a man with more on his mind and shoulders than meets the eye. Hirsch continues to be one of the most underutilized actors in Hollywood, and is constantly good when given the proper material to work with. Together they have solid chemistry and give the film a serious tone and heart that adds a bit of class to everything.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe is not for the squeamish, and while it is not overly gratuitous with its gore most of the film involves a body being dissected like a high school biology project. For the most part it strays away from a tongue and cheek approach with its violence which considering how a subject like this could have gone in the wrong hands, is probably a good thing. A lot of the violence is off screen leaving us as the viewer to witness the aftermath instead and I think that was a wise decision here.
While it may sound like it’s a perfect film I did have some issues with it during the final moments as I felt that it tried to wrap things up a bit too hastily. It does such a good job with pacing right up until about the final fifteen minutes hurting the emotional impact of certain scenes, diluting them into a forgettable moment rather then something that sticks with you. It’s a problem many horror films have and one that The Autopsy of Jane Doe unfortunately falls victim to as well. It may not be a perfect film but it is one I cannot recommend highly enough and feel as though it will resonate with both non-horror and horror fans alike. It works as both a mystery thriller and creature movie offering hints right up until the final moments where it truly caught me by surprise.