The Autopsy of Jane Doe
by George Wolf
An unidentified body is found buried in the dirt at an unusual crime scene. The county coroner and his assistant/son begin an autopsy, immediately discovering unsettling things. As they dig for more answers, unsettling gradually turns to terrifying.
In 2010, director Andre Ovredal made Trollhunter a fresh blast of B-movie fun. He brings a similar vibe to The Autopsy of Jane Doe, a film with enough wry smarts and acting chops to deliver more satisfying scares than you might expect.
Ovredal, along with screenwriters Ian Goldberg and Richard Naing, knows the payoff is weaker than the premise, so he makes sure you’re plenty invested early on, earning some capital that will be spent when things get a bit silly. Talented leads don’t hurt, either.
As Coroner Tom Tilden and his son Austin, Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch display an easy chemistry and deliver a solid anchor of believability to build upon. We trust these guys, and we don’t doubt they truly want to do right by the young victim through science, and learn the source of her painful death.
That there is plenty of gruesome body horror should be no surprise, but the under-reliance on a bevy of special effects is a nice one. Even better is Ovredal’s treatment of his lead actress (Olwen Kelly). Yes, the female body on the slab is young, attractive (at least to start) and constantly nude, but the director seems careful not to further exploit that fact with a leering camera, focusing instead on making it increasingly difficult to look her way.
Once the Tildens realize they’re in a literally bloody mess, Jane Doe becomes an adult version of Lights Out, delivering jump scares and red herrings with a knowing, playful touch that says “Why so serious? Let’s have some fun!”
You will, right down to the final shot.