The Autopsy of Jane Doe follows a coroner and his son who are tasked to examine the mysterious corpse of an unidentified young woman. As they begin their work, they realize the woman on the table is a lot more mysterious than simply lacking a name.
I’ll warn you right of the bat, if you’re a squeamish person…maybe skip this one. I mean with a movie with autopsy in the title should never be a squeamish person’s go to flick, but yeah this film has some rough imagery. Still, it’s really cool and isn’t done in that gratuitous way that makes it cheesy or cliché. The two characters have a central story, with the father being the logical coroner who relies on rational explanations (Brian Cox) while the son (Emile Hirsch) looks at things more subjectively, yet still respects and looks up to his father. As weird things start happening around the morgue they both process them differently until it becomes impossible to ignore the chaos. It brings back old memories of guilt and grief at the loss of the coroner’s wife and the narrative isn’t afraid to slow down to explore these parts of the story.
Now let me be clear, this film is a lot scarier than just gross-out autopsy imagery. It has some rough jump scares and a truly claustrophobic setting that’ll make you hold your breath for a few scenes. It really messes with your senses, with cinematography that disorients you along with the characters. I mean, I like to think writing these reviews have made me a much better horror movie viewer. I used to barely be able to get through any of them without compulsively hitting the mute button on scary parts. This one brought back the mute button.
I personally really like small cast horror films. I think that limiting the people in the situation makes it all the more pressing they get out. The attacks or threats seem more urgent because there isn’t the typical scapegoat to die first. Really anything could happen. There is also this really spooky thematic choice that they set up early in the film about attaching bells to feet of the dead because back in the old days that was the only way you knew if a corpse was certainly dead. That comes back later in a really creepy way. There are some other interesting cinematic choices they made, with some really gory and graphic imagery being teased and then selectively revealed. The makeup is done really well and the twists and turns are genuinely unexpected.
The finale is certainly interesting, and doesn’t let up on the twists and turns. It leaves you with a lot more questions than answers. Did they both hallucinate the whole thing? Was it really the occult? But it’s a really clever little horror film that skirts the line of cliché kind of hard but never succumbs to it. It’s has some true scares while also being smart, sticking to a central mystery that serves as the major narrative element propelling the plot forward. The ending is ominous without being the “BOO GOTCHA!” ending that a lot of horror tends to lean upon. It’s still a subtle twist that keeps the mystery alive but doesn’t directly answer every single question. Horror movies aren’t supposed to wrap up in a tidy bow, that’s what makes them scary.
Overall, I think this may be one of the scariest films I’ve seen this year. A perfect blend of claustrophobia, genre horror, jump scares, and mystery, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a must see for horror lovers.
Amy’s Recommendation: 8/10