Posted on Friday, December 2nd, 2016 by Jacob Hall
André Øvredal‘s The Autopsy of Jane Doe was one of my favorite movies at Fantastic Fest 2016 and one of the best horror films I’ve seen in a year that has been very kind to the genre. It will be released on VOD platforms on December 20, 2016 and in select theaters on December 21, 2016. If you like good horror movies that value performances and mood and character as much as they value scares, you should go out of your way to see it. If it’s playing in a theater near you, it’s worth the price of admission. This is such an audience movie.
And if you’ve already decided to see it, I’d recommend skipping the latest trailer, which tips its hand a little too much and teases a few too many of the film’s finest scares.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe stars Brian Cox as a veteran coroner and Emile Hirsch as his son and assistant. The former is still grieving after the loss of his wife. The latter is considering leaving the family business. And then a mysterious, unidentified body is brought in and the duo is tasked with discovering a cause of death. Working through the night, they slowly discover that there is something incredibly wrong with the “Jane Doe” on their table.
And really, that’s all you should know. I don’t recommend clicking play on the trailer below, but you are your own person.
In addition to just being plain scary, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a terrific father and son movie, with Cox and Hirsch showing off a natural chemistry that makes you believe that these two have truly know each other their whole lives. The film does a tremendous service to these characters, introducing them as intelligent men and refusing to dumb them down for the sake of genre convenience. Come for the scares, stay for these two giving tremendous performances that help sell an increasingly bonkers horror tale.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe couldn’t be more different than André Øvredal’s debut film, 2011’s ambitious and hugely entertaining Trollhunter, but it’s just as effective at pulling off a tricky premise. He’s become one of the most exciting guys working in genre film right now and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Here’s the official synopsis for The Autopsy of Jane Doe:
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In small-town Virginia, police are called to a gruesome crime scene where a family has been massacred in their own house. In the basement, an even more disturbing discovery is made: the partially buried corpse of a nude woman. The cops take this unidentified victim to a small, family-run morgue, where they ask proprietor Tommy Tilden (Brian Cox) to perform an urgent forensic analysis in order to help determine what happened at the blood-stained house. Tommy’s son Austen (Emile Hirsch) cancels a date with his girlfriend (Ophelia Lovibond) in order to help his father perform an autopsy, and the two Tildens set about their grisly examination in the morgue basement. Working late into the night as they methodically peel back layers of skin, muscle, and bone, Tommy and Austen are baffled by the lack of external signs of trauma on the victim and the alarming extent of her internal injuries. Increasingly perplexed and frustrated by these forensic anomalies, the pair begins to succumb to late-night jitters, getting spooked at apparitions that seem to be lurking in the shadows. As the dread mounts and the atmosphere gets thick with evil, it becomes apparent that the Tildens’ fate is intertwined with a darkness that neither of them can comprehend.