The Family That Coroners Together…
Main Cast: Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch, Olwen Kelly
Dirctor: Andre Ovredal
Do you like being totally creeped out? Do you like horror movies done with skill and intelligence? Do you like top notch acting? Do you like a ton of non-gratuitous gore? The Autopsy of Jane Doe might just be the movie for you.
Coroners Tommy Tilden (Brian Cox, The Ring) and his son Austin (Emile Hirsch, Into the Wild) are asked to determine the cause of death of an unidentified woman (Olwen Kelly, Darkness on the Edge of Town) whose body was discovered partially buried in the basement of a house where several other violent deaths have taken place.
The woman’s body appears unmarked on the outside, but as the father and son team dig into the mystery, the signs begin to appear. Her wrists and ankles are shattered. Her tongue has been cut out. A flower known for its paralyzing agents has been stuffed down her throat. Her internal organs are burned. Stranger and stranger details begin to crop up until, finally, all hell breaks loose and the Tilden men find themselves trapped in the basement where they work with several dead bodies which may or may not be walking around. To reveal anything more would be to ruin the fun. And that I can’t do, because as creepy and mysterious as this movie is, it’s also a TON of fun.
Brian Cox … has he ever been bad in anything? I honestly can’t imagine him not owning the screen any time he’s on it, as he does here. But he’s not alone, because Emile Hirsch, another amazingly commanding actor, shares the screen almost scene for scene. The two feel as if they are father and son and have been living and working together their whole lives. The chemistry between the two is perfect, and you get the sense Hirsch really is trying to learn as much as he can from Cox, as his character Austin is trying to learn as much as he can from his father. This was one of those cases of perfect casting and the direction, cinematography and effects aside, The Autopsy of Jane Doe wouldn’t have been as effective without them.
But since I did mention direction, cinematography and effects … Andre Ovredal already had a fan in me on the strength of his 2010 movie Trollhunter, but Jane Doe proves he’s only getting better with each new project. His skill in creating tension, and not just tension but outright genuine creepy scares, with little more than a camera angle, a beat, a shadow, is the work of a master filmmaker, not just a good horror director. But that being said, I don’t think this movie would have been half as beautiful without the cinematography of Roman Osin.
His work here is a huge leap from 2006’s The Return. Jane Doe is, simply, a beautiful movie. Osin is able to take all the gore and terror and with an expert combination of framing and lighting, create a work of wonder that captures your attention and makes you WANT to spend a full 87 minutes watching this movie without once turning away to check your phone.
And what gore. The effects department had to have worked overtime on this movie getting it to look so good.
Also, I can’t possibly finish this review without mentioning the real star of this movie. Olwen Kelly as the mysterious Jane Doe had the hardest job here: to act and be terrifying without making a single move or uttering a single word. And holy crap, she pulled it off. It was an unenviable task, for sure, but she tackled it, killed it, and just gave the horror genre a brand new villain we can spend the next 7 years fearing. And all she had to do was lie there.
Sometimes the many different elements of a movie come together in the perfect combination at the right time and the end result is a movie that you don’t wait until one of the streaming services finally decides to add it. You buy the thing the first chance you get, because this is a movie you’re going to show your friends and family. Well, the ones who enjoy great movies, that is. I wouldn’t show it to just ANYONE I know. Only the people I love most, because I know they’ll enjoy it just as much as I did.
I recommend The Autopsy of Jane Doe without hesitation and suggest you try to find a copy for yourself sooner rather than later; this isn’t a movie you want to sleep on and, years later after everyone’s already praised it, you finally get on board. That’s no way to live. Go get it now. You’ve earned it. As for me, I’m off to hand the DVD over to my daughter. She’s gonna love this one.