The best thing I can say about The Autopsy of Jane Doe, “Best International Feature” at this years Monster Fest, is that it is a welcome, fresh new take on the horror genre… until it isn’t.
Jane Doe follows Tommy and his son Austin (Brian Cox & Emile Hirsch, respectively) who work in a family run morgue beneath their home. When an unidentified woman turns up late one night, it’s imperative that she has a cause of death by morning. As the two conduct their autopsy, the woman exhibits some strange signs and things start going horribly wrong.
Due to its limited setting, Jane Doe only has about five cast members so Hirsch and Cox are tasked with holding the film down and they do so with ease. The two have a wonderful chemistry, trading off on each other – Cox playing a man buried in his work since the death of his wife and Hirsch nailing his role as an inexperienced but extremely talented coroner. It’s especially rewarding watching the two grow as Tommy, who is only ever concerned with the ‘how’ and never the ‘why’ like his son, lets the mysteriousness of the case push him to crack the motive.
As far as horror films go, Jane Doe is promising for a good three quarters. There is an impressive slow build that is perfectly intensified by the lack of answers. A storm outside gets increasingly worse and the radio the two listen to during procedures begins playing eerie songs on its own accord. It’s all been done before but the ambiguity of the situation pushes things into uneasy territory.
The film eventually takes a permanent stay in cliche territory though which is disappointing. A lot of time is spent with Hirsch peering into a hole/vent/gap while tense music plays, resulting in a lot of those “delay before the jump” tropes. Silhouettes and fake scares are the order of the day here and while it isn’t a deal breaker, it definitely stands out because of a fantastic start.
The investigation angle continues to play out through all of this and it’s a credit to director André Øvredal (Troll Hunter) that he manages to juxtapose supernatural horror with a classic whodunnit? He keeps his audience curious right through until the end and throws in a couple of confronting twists including a grisly, bold finale.
Oh and just a side note: Our Jane Doe gets basically every part of her cut open, as per the job. Don’t eat and watch this if you’re the least bit squeamish.
For the most part, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is innovative and original. Cox and Hirsch are nothing short of brilliant and the mystery that shrouds most of the film makes it a must-see. It’s just a shame that it gets a little too generic, preventing it from being a classic.
Review Score: THREE AND A HALD STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Autopsy of Jane Doe screened as part of Monster Fest in Melbourne. There is no release date for Australia yet but you can head over FanForce to help bring it to cinemas.