Why does Mother Nature insist we rush through the seasons this year? I’m still waiting for a true winter. But I digress. My point is, bitches be crazy, and that includes the title character of this month’s movie. Welcome back, my faithful gravediggers and undertakers, for another instalment of Macabre Movie Mausoleum.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
Director: André Øvredal
Starring: Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch, and Olwen Kelly
This is movie is more recent than those I’m used to reviewing. However, I didn’t know that when I watched it. Nonetheless, this was an interesting film. Father and son mortician team of Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch work and live in small town Americana, but son, Austin, has dreams of moving away with his girlfriend.
On a night when Austin is, essentially, “not supposed to be here today” and is basically meant to be retiring (see the aforementioned moving away bit) a recently discovered buried woman is discovered. The sheriff, needing the cause of death by the following morning, asks the father, Tommy to do the autopsy as soon as possible. She was discovered half buried in a house, where many other recent murders occurred. The house shows no signs of forced entry, and the other victims all look as though they were attempting to flee the house.
The father/son duo get to work examining the body, and instantly things seem off. Her tongue was ripped out of her mouth, her wrists and ankles had been shattered with no signs of outward trauma, her waist had been considerably shrunk and tightened as if she wore a corset, and her eyes have turned cloudy, despite that only happening to bodies after several days and her looking recently deceased.
From there, the case continues to grow odder and odder. Beginning the internal examination, they cut her chest open, and it bleeds profusely, something that typically only happens with fresh bodies. Her organs have significant scar tissue, evident of stabbings, however her skin shows no signs of trauma. Similarly, her lungs show signs of third degree burns, but nowhere else is this reflected.
During all this, the radio the two are listening to begins changing stations on its own, switching between playing old timey songs, and news of a severe storm ravaging the town.
Things take a turn for the absurd when the bodies in the freezer racks disappear, then are later seen walking around, including one with a bell tied to it. Anything to ramp of the chills! And let me tell you, it works. Father and son try to escape, but the doors are blocked by a downed tree from the storm.
Hiding in the father’s room, they use a fire ax to defend themselves from the cadavers, which are basically zombies. While in the room, one of the bodies tries breaking through the door, and gets an axe to chest for its efforts. It is then revealed that it was Austin’s girlfriend, returning to pick him up as planned.
They realize the only way to stop whatever is happening, is to finish the autopsy and discover how Jane Doe was killed, and maybe this would allow her to finally die, and keep them alive.
In her stomach, they find a hex bag with markings containing a human tooth, and they later find the same markings on the underside of her skin when they are able to separate it from the rest of her body. The markings are discovered to be corresponding to a Bible verse that refers to condemning witches.
There is a lot more to this movie, but I so strongly recommend you watch it, I won’t spoil the ending. There isn’t so much of a twist to the ending, but what does happen needs to be seen to fully appreciate. It isn’t anything earth shaking or completely revolutionary in the horror genre, but it was a nice way to end the movie, and deserves to be seen with fresh eyes.
On to the rating…
At first I was ready to give this a rating of tombstone (4 of 5) but the more I thought about it while writing this review, the more I liked the movie. I’ll fully admit that this isn’t a perfect film, but it was original, well-acted, keeps you guessing, and was certainly well crafted.
Despite initially believing this wasn’t a paranormal movie, I must say I was pleasantly surprised with this one. Brian Cox can basically play any role in any movie, and it will always be great. He’s seriously up there as one of my favorite actors.
Emile Hirsch is a good actor, that I feel is better than his compatriots. I also feel like he hasn’t done himself any favors with some of the roles he’s chosen to play, but overall he’s an underrated actor, that was well served in this movie. With all the bloody shenanigans going on, there wasn’t much room for his ability to shine, but what was there, was solid.
Literally, the only other actor on screen for the majority of the movie, was Jane Doe herself. Olwen Kelly, is a model with a few other credits to her name, but nothing else I've heard of. In any case, despite not saying a single word, or moving at all, I was impressed with how still she remained. I understand that may not sound impressive, but when you watch the movie, you’ll see what I mean. Trust me, she did a better job emoting in this movie than Kristin Stewart ever has.
Overall, this was an enjoyable flick that flew under most people’s radars, and I hope I can help turn that around.
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