The Autopsy of Jane Doe has attracted uncommon amounts of hype for a horror film, an enticing prospect for genre fans everywhere. Andre Ovredal‘s 2010 hit Troll Hunter was a superb showcase for his talents, delivering a fresh take on found footage with a dark fantasy twist, on a relatively low budget. Jane Doe marks only his third film, but his most ambitious.
Austin (Emile Hirsch) works with his father Tommy (Brian Cox) at their small-town family mortuary. One night the pair are put to the test when the mysterious corpse of a young woman is delivered by the police. It’s a simple premise with a great mystery at its core.
The quality of the writing helps elevate a simple procedural structure to dizzying heights- and depths- of macabre intrigue. Ovredal is sure to lay out the location in the first few minutes; this is after all pretty much a one-set piece. The subterranean retro-fitted family mortuary is as important to the story as any of its characters. An introductory autopsy shows us Tommy’s step-by-step method and his “foolproof” deductions. Jane Doe’s corpse debates every one of those steps, inevitably haunting his idea of common sense. The film essentially ushers its audience into a basement of logic, then leaves us stranded with Cox and Hirsch, unable to navigate what is really a labyrinth of occult pandemonium.
Of course, the mystery is always more fun than the solution, but The Autopsy of Jane Doe doesn’t slide into desperation. Even if the last act fails to maintain the pace of the first two, its resolution still works. Its answer is wholly deserved and frankly a breath of fresh air in the zombie-crammed, vampire-loving world of contemporary horror.
The long and short of it is this is a blast of a film. Be it the nicely tuned moments of Friday-night-fun, or the Guignol-inspired thrills of the gore, this is a film crammed with goodies. Classic horror beats are arranged around the main mystery like punchy appetisers. There are concepts here that deserve a rigorous public airing, but to rob, that gasp from your mouth would be a piece of shit thing to do. Suffice to say, Ovredal’s film executes spectacle just as much as a scare.
An ambitious film with its foot wedged firmly in the door of a contemporary classic, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a must-see for all genre fans. Scary good fun.
Horror, Mystery, Thriller | USA, 2016 | 15 | 26th June 2017 (UK) | Lionsgate Films | Dir.André Øvredal |Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch, Ophelia Lovebond, Olwen Catherine Kelly | Buy:[Blu-ray]