Raven Banner debuted The Autopsy of Jane Doe at the midnight section of the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2016. With only a limited subsequent theatrical release, Jane Doe flew under a lot of horror fans’ radars. Word of mouth, however, has been positive. Now Jane Doe looks to be getting the Netflix release it deserves.
Local police investigate what appears to be a family dispute gone wrong. During their crime scene search, they find the body of an unidentified young woman partially buried in the basement. The sheriff takes the body to the local fathe and son coroners, Tommy and Austin Tilden. With no injuries or external blemishes, Tommy and Austin uncover one bizarre anomaly after another. Soon they find themselves trapped and confronting supernatural origins for the ‘Jane Doe’ in their autopsy.
Fun, Twisty Story Built on a Fantastic Premise
Based on a screenplay by Ian Goldberg and Richard Naing, The Autopsy of Jane Doe has unique premise absolutely ripe with potential. An autopsy of a young, unknown woman with no evident trauma is a concept that instantly distinguishes itself. With countless slasher film reduxes and haunted house movies, it’s refreshing to find a horror film willing to try something different.
There’s a sense of anticipation that accompanies each morbid discovery as you attempt to decipher the identity of ‘Jane Doe’ …
Fortunately, Jane Doe capably builds from its premise, brilliantly navigating what a one-setting mystery. Each step of the autopsy reveals another mystery for the audience to puzzle over. There’s a sense of anticipation that accompanies each morbid discovery as you attempt to decipher the identity of ‘Jane Doe’ and her ’cause of death.’ It’s a well-structured puzzle that doesn’t require a lot of action. As the movie winds towards its conclusion, there are a couple of leaps in logic. We also get some unnecessary expository dialogue. But this is a minor quibble with an otherwise exceptional story.
Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch – A Compelling Father and Son Team
Limited to largely a single setting, The Autopsy of Jane Doe needed convincing performances and it got it.
The father-and-son relationship complements the traditional horror elements of The Autopsy of Jane Doe. It’s simple attention to characters and relationships. Both Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch bring the relationship to life with nicely understand relationships. Limited to largely a single setting, The Autopsy of Jane Doe needed convincing performances and it got it.
Cox is an underappreciated veteran actor. He lends credibility to any project with which he is associated. In The Autopsy of Jane Doe, he delivers a stoic but heartbreaking performance as a lonely man who buries himself in work. Cox is able to take something as simple as the loss of a pet, his last connection to his deceased wife, and wrench out its impact with facial expressions and little dialogue. As the dutiful son, Hirsch gives an equally convincing performance. Hirsch aptly balances his character’s conflict with the mounting horror of the situation in which finds himself.
Genuine Scares and Haunting Atmosphere
Director Andre Ovredal, who helmed the fantastic Troll Hunter, wrings every last bit of tension from the concept. By and large, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a quiet and restrained horror film. While there are a few jump scares, they don’t feel forced or telegraphed with loud noises. Ovredal builds these scares from the tension of the film’s scenario and the atmosphere of its setting. The old practice of tying a bell to corpses’ toes, for instance, is exploited for maximum scares. Sound is used subtly to induce chills. From crackling voices in the radio to the most disturbing use of old song, Let the Sunshine In, Ovredal lets the suspense build in small increments.
The Autopsy of Jane Destined to Be a Classic
The Autopsy of Jane is destined to obtain classic, or at least cult classic, status in the future. It stands up to multiple viewings without losing any of its potency or ability to creep you out. Even its mystery elements are just as engaging and fun to immerse one’s self in on the second viewing. Director Orvedal has crafted a modern classic tale of witches that deserves to find an audience among horror fans.