Dissecting the mystery of a horror movie

Image via rogerebert.com
Image via rogerebert.com

‘The Autopsy of Jane Doe’ film review

By Colten Kamlade, Columnist


The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) opens in a house full of dead bodies. Detectives and police scour the scene, uncovering grisly murder after grisly murder. A woman is found half buried in the basement, the cause of her death unclear. She is taken to Tommy Tilden and his son Austin, the town coroners, who begin to unravel the mystery behind her death.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe is as much a mystery film as anything else. In fact, the opening scene feels like the beginning of a gruesome crime thriller, not a supernatural horror, and that might be why the film works so well. The world that we are thrown into feels very real. There are no college bimbos or frat boys; there’s no masked, machete-wielding killer. The realism accentuates the supernatural elements and helps us relate to the characters.

The script doesn’t demand much from Emile Hirsch (Austin) or Brian Cox (Tommy), but they play their roles competently. I found myself more impressed with Olwen Kelly as the corpse. She had the most difficult role, even if it didn’t require any acting. There is the psychological toll of lying naked for hours in a room full of cameras and crewmen, but she also demonstrated impressive control over her body and her breathing.

While the mystery is what held my attention, the film had its fair share of terror. The gore is limited to the autopsy table, but watching Jane Doe’s slow dissection is unsettling, especially when the camera lingers on her expressionless face. If you’re a hardcore gorehound, however, you’ll be disappointed. The spurting blood and severed limbs are kept to a minimum. What violence is depicted is shown tactfully.

Unfortunately, the film goes downhill after the one-hour mark. This is partially because the movie does such a good job of building suspense. After the big reveal it’s hard to stay as involved, particularly since the film is based around solving a mystery. You would think that once the mystery was answered, it would quickly come to a close. Instead there’s a lot of running around and hiding, which feels both unnecessary and out of place. It’s a messy ending for an otherwise polished film.

Despite its flaws, I would highly recommend The Autopsy of Jane Doe. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s something different in a genre plagued by cookie cutter plots and tired tropes.