I have a general rule that I never review a film after only one viewing. There are multiple reasons for that. One is that I never go into a movie thinking about reviewing it. I analyze the hell out of them and I am very critical of them but that’s just the normal ‘me’. Once I watch I film that persuades me to talk about it publicly I watch it again before I do…not doing that here; I don’t need to. Beyond this quick introduction you’ll find my complete, spoiler free review of Andre Ovredal’s “Autopsy of Jane Doe”
Also, when I carve out time to watch a film I really do not like to know much about it. Especially if I am familiar with the film maker’s previous work. Mr. Ovredal had blown me away with his first film, the charming ‘found footage’ film Troll Hunter. He had managed to pleasantly surprise me with that film. I had seen it in one of my Rue Morgue issues but, quite honestly, I was grabbed by the photo stills and not the premise…at least at first. I have always been critical of mockumentaries and found footage films; not a genre I ever liked. So when I realized that Troll Hunter was that type of beast I started to lose a bit of interested. Then, an hour and forty minutes later I found myself watching it all over again. I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by that movie and how a visionary, for all intent and purposes, first time director; how he managed to change my mind on what I do or do not like.
On to Jane Doe. This film is intense and engaging. I loved it on a technical level. The focus pulling, the off-level tracking shots, the darkness in the background seemingly moving and shifting about. The fact it doesn’t cut away too much but shows you those close ups that gore mongers like myself get off on. The autopsy scenes were so well done I cannot emphasize enough. The best autopsy scenes since Nacho Cerda’s “Aftermath”. But they should be, right? I mean, the film is titled “The Autopsy of Jane Doe”. The morgue scenes, while incredibly effective, are expected to be. It is everything else about the film that pushes and challenges even the most jaded of horror filmgoers such as myself. Guys, if you can’t stand 90% of the modern day horror films that come out then this is for you! this is that diamond in the rough, I’m telling you.
Since this is a review and I have to be a bit critical, the father and son duo, while great, I felt something was never fully fleshed out between them. It’s hard to describe without giving some spoilers. They’re not at all bad. Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox have a lot of on screen chemistry but I would’ve liked to have spent a bit more time with them.
And Michael McElhatton…Seeing Roose Bolton in action practically gave me a boner. But it’s really Olwen Kelly that seals the deal, so to speak, as Jane Doe. Her presence is always ominous and for boding yet you feel for her. How her body is mercilessly cut into, sawed open, flayed…”Aftermath” did an excellent job in showing the mortician as no more of a butcher, Jane Doe takes it even further because as the mystery begins to unravel both Tilden’s senior and junior start to realize that they are in way over their heads. This is not just a pretty array of meat and bones, this is so much more…and then the dread sets in!
I touched on the cinematography a bit earlier but a lot of credit has to also go to the pacing, which is in the hands of the editors. This film moves very fast while knowing when to slow down for suspense; managing to keep the intensity going from the opening credits to the end.
In conclusion, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is not only a film that shouldn’t be missed by the most discerning of horror buffs, but also for those who may not necessary gravitate towards the genre but like a good scare. And to those who like a morale to every tale that is told; here’s the morale of this one: Don’t treat bodies like meat, respect the dead, for you never know where they may come from and what they’re capable of…
And check out Nacho Cerda’s Aftermath if you can track it down (sorry for the shameless plug but they go together so well).
-Orlando G Acosta