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Review

Mystery and horror coalesce to become something terrifying in ‘The Autopsy of Jane Doe’

February 22, 2017

“The Autopsy of Jane Doe” is a horror/thriller film that has been on the film festival circuit since the later part of 2016. It is available to rent online on iTunes and Google Play, to name a few.

The movie centers around a mysterious body that is found in the basement of a home under investigation for multiple homicides. The body has no identification, so it is given the name Jane Doe. The body is then brought to a morgue that is run by a father and son. They begin an autopsy on Jane Doe and slowly unravel the horrific secrets of her past.

There are essentially two characters: the father and son, while Jane Doe is essentially a silent third character speaking through her autopsy results.

The buildup of a horror movie is always the best part. The mystery surrounding Jane Doe is slowly revealed over the course of the first two acts and is done by means of very disturbing and sometimes grotesque findings in her body pointing to her cause of death. The sheriff points out at the very beginning of the film that the people in the house where Jane was found looked like they were trying to escape. Of course the question becomes: What were they escaping from?

Outdated and even a little run down, the setting of the film takes place in a family mortuary that has been in business since the early 1900s. It’s also very confined, as it is a cellar in the family’s home only accessible through an elevator and a hatch door. Can you guess how that would be a problem for the characters in a horror movie?

The buildup surrounding Jane’s past actually becomes better than the resolution of the film itself. The reason for this is that the implications of Jane’s past and her death are much more unsettling than what the film actually shows us. After all, our imaginations can sometimes conjure up more frightening images than what any movie could ever show.

Ideally, a horror movie can produce scares that are authentic and that don’t need to rely on flashing an image on screen accompanied by a loud jolt of music. A movie should be scary because of its imagery and tension.

There are no cheap scares in “The Autopsy of Jane Doe.” That isn’t to say you won’t be surprised by a scare, but you will know when it is coming. One of the best moments of the film actually comes from the sound of a small bell jingling. The context of why that should scare you is of course revealed in the first part of the movie.

Although she is dead, Jane Doe is the most fleshed-out character in the entire film and obviously this is because she is the focal point of the plot. The simplicity of having a lifeless body on the mortuary table makes the whole thing uncomfortable. Something just doesn’t seem right as they slowly examine and cut open her body.

Even though Jane’s facial expressions don’t change, in small ways her demeanor changes. In one scene, the morticians tilt her head forward a little to work on removing her brain. This very subtle shift in the way we look at her face completely changes the tone of the character and perfectly reflects everything that has happened up until that moment. Again, her actual facial expression never changes, but the context of certain scenes overhaul what our minds associate with the corpse or character of Jane Doe.

This movie should at least be in a limited release theater run. “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” is such a great contrast to some of the terrible horror movies we’ve been given in the past few years. And although the last act does struggle a bit to live up to its own build up, it is a very common struggle that many horror flicks face. But the ride leading up to it is well worth the price of admission, or in this case, rental.

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