The Autopsy of Jane Doe
Generally when writing year-end lists of my favorite things, I try to wait as long as possible before posting them online, holding out in the event that something is released at the very last second that somehow takes hold of my heart and worms its way into the top 10 or 100 or whatever. With films, it’s generally because the year is so backloaded with excellent selections that there is just no way I’m going to get to see everything I want to…but maybe just one, if we can find a sitter and the kids are cool. And so, I saw La La Land on the 26th, loved it, and posted my year-end movie list on the 28th. How was I to know that I still wrote it up too early?
Being that I have a 3-year old and an 11-month old, and because babysitters are expensive, New Year’s Eve is not nearly as exciting as it used to be. And so, we ate pizza for dinner. And the kids fell asleep. And my wife and I settled in on the sofa with a couple of drinks and a movie. And what a movie! Showing up on my radar due to its inclusion and acclaim at last year’s Fantastic Fest, an event that I will somehow, someway attend someday, Trollhunter director Andre Ovredal’s The Autopsy of Jane Doe proved I should have waited just a little bit longer to post that year-end movie list.
A gripping mystery that slowly unfolds into a horror film about the occult and the unknown, The Autopsy of Jane Doe‘s simple but cool story hits all the right notes due to the director’s sure hand and the fantastic ensemble cast. When the body of an unidentified woman is discovered at a grisly crime scene, the police are baffled by the almost pristine condition of the corpse when compared to the other victims at the site. Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch play father and son coroners tasked with determining the cause of death for the titular Jane Doe brought in for examination by the local sheriff. Things slowly begin to unravel as the two discover more and more about the mysterious body in their midst.
Cox and Hirsch have a real chemistry together in the film, playing off of each other as loving family members coming to terms with their collective grief over the relatively recent passing of their wife and mother. You can practically feel their affection for each other on the screen, and it embeds each scene the two are in together (which is almost all of them) with a familiarity that keeps things grounded during the course of the autopsy, but makes the stakes feel all the more higher when everything goes awry. I genuinely cared for each character and could feel my unease intensify as the horror elements began to come into play. On the other side of the examination table is our Jane Doe, played by newcomer Olwen Kelly, who despite her slightly thankless roll as a cadaver, is absolutely entrancing. In her motionless and very naked part, Kelly uses the most subtle and barely noticeable changes in facial expression to go from vacant and innocuous to sinister and terrifying. Days later, it’s still haunting me.
As per usual, I don’t want to give too much away, as I went into The Autopsy of Jane Doe fairly cold, but I cannot recommend it enough. If you care to, check out the trailer for the film below.
Mental note: wait until the last possible second to post a year-end list next time.
From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.