The Autopsy of Jane Doe
Director: André Øvredal
Stars: Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch, Ophelia Lovibond
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
Any movie that Stephen King says is “visceral horror to rival Alien and early Cronenberg” is going to get my attention. And then there’s the fact that it’s from the director of 2010’s awesome Trollhunter, which sealed the deal for me. But that’s some high expectations to have going into this movie; did it live up to them, or was this film dead on arrival? Well, get your scalpel, your latex gloves, you might want to skip lunch, and let’s dig into Jane Doe to find out.
At a gruesome murder scene full of bloody bodies, police find a lovely young woman, dead, partially buried, with not a mark on her. So her body is sent to the local father-and-son medical examiners to find the cause of death, and that’s where the real fun begins. This Jane Doe has shattered bones in her wrists and ankles, her lungs are completely black, her eyes are cloudy when they shouldn’t be at this early stage, there are scars on her internal organs, and she bleeds when cut open. All these things are strange, but what’s more bizarre is when the radio plays the same creepy song by itself, the family cat dies, collected blood from the woman spills by itself, and oh yeah, they find an ages-old cloth covered in runes inside the woman’s stomach. Then things get really, really weird.
Essentially this is a three-person movie, with one of the actors never moving. Veteran cinema stalwart Brian Cox and relative newcomer Emile Hirsch are wonderful as the father/son team, carrying all the fright and humanity on their shoulders as things get worse and worse. The special makeup effects are great in the cold, clinical way befitting an autopsy. Direction by André Øvredal is outstanding, even better than his work in Trollhunter, and that movie was amazing. The tension is thick and palpable, the dread creeping and creepy, and the scares are not of the lame BOO variety, but are earned with great moments of terror. In all ways this movie is a winner.
On to the extras and goodies on this new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack from IFC Midnight and Scream Factor. Sadly, there’s not many. Maybe due to a language barrier (director André Øvredal is from Norway) there is no director’s commentary, and that’s a shame. But there are also no interviews, behind the scenes, or anything and many films helmed by foreign directors have those, and this was a joint USA/UK production, so I don’t get it. There are TV spots, teasers, and a theatrical trailer, but still, I have to say being such a good film and coming from the mighty Scream Factory I am a little bit disappointed.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a great move with some of the creepiest moments I’ve seen on film for many a year. Despite the rather lackluster Blu-ray release this movie is a must have for any horror fan in any format. So on the strength of the film alone, which really is the only thing that counts, consider this one highly recommended.