The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

Director: Andre Ovredal   Writers: Ian B. Goldberg, Richard Naing  Music: Danny Bensi

Cinematography: Roman Osin   Production Design: Matt Gant

Cast:    Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch, Ophelia Lovibond, Olwen Kelly, Michael McElhatton, Parker Sawyers, Jane Perry

Every body has a secret, some just hide them better than others.”

This film wastes no time: we are taken to a small town, into a lovely home that is now a crime scene. Sheriff Burke Sheldon (Michael McElhatton) walks through the scene, the camera’s flash capture two bodies on the first floor. Broken windows, blood everywhere. As we follow him upstairs, we see another body, a gun nearby. Pushing open a door, he is called to the basement. Lt. Wade (Jane Perry) and Officer Cole (Parker Sawyers) are standing over an open hole. Looking down, we see a beautiful young woman, still half buried. Pale white, long brown hair, she is immediately shipped off to the coroner’s office. Name: Jane Doe (played to perfection by Olwen Kelly).

 Run by Tommy Tilden (played by the wonderful Brian Cox) in the basement of their house and assisted by his son, Austin (Emile Hirsch, making a helluva name for himself),the coroner is a family business.  We get to know them as they conduct an autopsy on a very burned Otis Howard. The music is pretty rockin’ as Dad quizzes Austin on the COD (cause of death). Austin thinks, based on the smoke in the nasal cavity and lungs, smoke inhalation. Nope! Tommy peels back the scalp and shows Austin a fracture in the neck. Subdural hematoma…he fell and hit his head, developing a blood clot on the brain. Mr. Howard is put in drawer three. Dad goes out for a smoke, Austin cleans up, as Stanley the cat comes through the vents with a dead mouse. Austin yells up to Tommy, “Stanley got another one!!” as he walks the lower halls. Emma (Ophelia Lovibond) jumps out and scares Austin. He told her he’d meet her…what’s she doing here? Since Austin has always seen where she works, it’s time his girlfriend sees where he works. She bops down the hallway to the autopsy room. She wants to see some dead bodies. As Austin is trying to talk her out of it: “Some things you can’t unsee.”, Dad pops in, scaring Emma. Tommy tells Austin to go ahead…show her. Okay. In the first drawer, we meet 96 y/o Irene Daniels. Her eyes and mouth are stitched closed, she died of mesothelioma and is ready for cremation, just a few doors down. Oh that one was too easy…Emma wants to see who’s in the next drawer. As the second drawer is opened, a bell tied to Mr. Louis Tannis’ ankle tinkles. Emma wants to know why the bell? Tommy tells her that in the old days, coroners sometimes couldn’t tell the difference between comatose and dead people, hence the bell. If they turned up alive, the bell would ring. As Emma looks at the blood-stained covered face, she reaches for the cloth. Austin stops her..she doesn’t need or want to see this. The cloth is caved in. Mr. Tannis shot himself before the strychnine could get him. As the trio leave, Austin and Emma planning a date night, Tommy meets Sheriff Sheldon bringing Jane in. This is top priority, he wants to know about her right away. Austin looks back and Dad tells him to go on, he’s got this. Austin looks at Emma…he’ll meet her at eleven, for the midnight show and some drinks, but he needs to help his Dad. reluctantly Emma agrees and heads out, while Austin heads to the autopsy room.

This movie was very unexpected in a lot of ways. It has the jump scares, but it has a rich story. Only the third movie directed by Norwegian director Andre Ovredal (Trollhunters, 2010, and the sci-fi short The Tunnel, 2016) it is a must own for horror fans. Yes, I went straight from must see to must own. Because after you see it, you’ll need to own it. Not really gory, it does prove accurate for the autopsy scenes. This is an awesome movie because it doesn’t waste time with extra things. It’s very much a bottle movie, in that it stays in one place, with a single story to tell. I always look for the story in my horror movies. Having gore and all that is fine, but why is it there? Why do we need to be bathed in blood? Slasher movies need it…it’s what they do. But not every movie needs it. “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” doesn’t need it, and the director and writers limited it to only what was needed. 

The writers, Ian B. Goldberg and Richard Naing did a bang up job on the story. I look forward to more from them, as well as Andre. Emile Hirsch, who I first discovered in the movie “The Darkest Hour,” (excellent movie, btw..see it if you haven’t), just proves to us he’s a true shooting star. Playing Tommy Tilden, Brian Cox just rocks it. I love that man as an actor…to me, he’s one of the greats. 

This is a very compelling supernatural horror movie. It doesn’t lead you where you think it does. It’s a horrific journey to learn about Jane Doe. For a horror movie, it’s truly a breath of fresh air. Stephen King highly reccommends it..and he’s a tough cookie. See it…you won’t be disappointed.

Oh…that bell..just ignore it.