The Autopsy of Jane Doe (Blu-ray)

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The Autopsy of Jane Doe (Blu-ray)

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Review of "The Autopsy of Jane Doe (Blu-ray)"

published 03/07/2017 | hogsflesh
Member since : 19/04/2010
Reviews : 825
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Pro Good, creepy horror movie
Cons Weak ending, poor CGI
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"Every body has a secret"

Brian Cox's sex face

Brian Cox's sex face

This Blu-ray is £12 on amazon and HMV at the moment.

So this was a surprise. The director of Trollhunter, a Norwegian knockabout found-footage horror film about guys hunting trolls, has now made a really creepy little movie about morticians in Virginia. There’s been a very welcome resurgence of genuinely good horror movies in recent years, and while this isn’t the best I’ve seen, it’s well worth a look.

Year: 2016
Director: André Øvredal
Stars: Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch
More information at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3289956
IMDB user rating: 6.8

The police find a house full of dead bodies. Most are clothed and have obvious causes of death. But in the cellar, partly buried, they find the naked corpse of an unidentified young woman. The sheriff takes the body, called ‘Jane Doe’ in accordance with tradition, to father and son morticians Tommy and Austin, who begin the autopsy late one evening. And, er, things don’t quite go to plan.

This manages the impressive feat of being both horribly gruesome and a slow-burn scare movie. Autopsies by their nature are viscerally grisly, and we see Tommy and Austin finishing off a previous autopsy, of a hideously burned corpse, before the sheriff arrives. When they get their hands on ‘Jane’, things get quite nasty, but also increasingly weird. Her skin is unblemished, but her ankles and wrists are badly broken, her tongue has been cut out, and her internal organs have been horribly damaged. And as the evidence from the corpse gets stranger, spooky things start to happen. The cat gets all growly. The radio starts playing creepy songs. The lights do that juddery, flickery thing they always do in horror movies. A storm rolls in.

The first half of the film really builds up a head of sinister unease. Unfortunately, when the properly scary stuff begins, it can’t quite live up to what’s come before. This is a problem that afflicts a lot of horror films (The Shining most famously) – the first half builds up a spooky, uncanny atmosphere that the second half simply can’t match. There’s an inevitable diminution of the story. At first, there are endless possibilities about what might be causing all this – magic! the devil! aliens! ghosts! witches! raccoons! When the film inevitably tips its hand and lets us know what’s going on, it can’t help but disappoint slightly as the endless possibilities are whittled down to just one.

It’s not that the second half is bad exactly, although the ending is quite weak and doesn’t feel fully earned. It’s just that it’s not as scary as I’d hoped given the first half. For all that, though, it is horrific, and has that mean-spirited streak that horror needs.

The film is helped immensely by its lead actors – being a low-budget film, most of the time we’re just watching two guys in a room with a corpse. Brian Cox is the father, Emile Hirsch is the son. It’s good to see Cox playing a lead role for a change, although his accent is every bit as wobbly as every other accent you’ll hear him do. He’s very convincing as an old mortician who thinks he’s seen everything. Hirsch is an actor I’m less familiar with – I remember him in Killer Joe, in which he overacted a bit – but he’s also excellent. The relationship between the two is very well played, with the father trying to impart his knowledge to the son; and the son trying to ease himself away from his father, but gently enough not to hurt him too badly.

There are a few other cast members, including Ophelia Lovibond as Austin’s likeable girlfriend, and Michael McElhatton (Roose Bolton in Game of Thrones) as the no-nonsense sheriff. But perhaps the most impressive performance comes from Olwen Kelly, as ‘Jane’. Way too many films are ruined by supposed corpses visibly breathing or twitching their eyelids. She does marvellously, an especially impressive achievement given that she’s nude the whole time. The camera is held in closeup on her face a lot, and for long stretches – this is incredibly eerie, and would be ruined if she didn’t keep perfectly still. (They obviously switch her for a pretty good prosthetic for the scenes where they’re rummaging around in her viscera, but still, she’s excellent.)

The horror content (in terms of gore) is fairly high for a 15. There is plentiful nudity, but I’d defy anyone to find it arousing given the context. It doesn’t feel exploitative, anyway. The film is shot using a typically muted colour palette – pretty much obligatory for horror these days. The music is also typical for the genre, consisting of heavy strings, discordant squeaking noises and loud percussive sounds. The make-you-jump moments are well done, although if you’ve seen many horror films you’ll be able to guess when they’re going to come (not a bad thing – anticipating something scary that you know is going to happen is just as effective as a sudden shock moment).

The only real failing, apart perhaps from the ending, is that there’s some really poor CGI, generally of blood (to be fair, this is a problem Game of Thrones has too, so maybe it’s not all budgetary). One moment early on is almost risible. I’m willing to forgive bad effects in old films, but in something as new as this, they’re difficult to overlook, especially since none of them are particularly necessary. Fortunately the film is strong enough to survive them.

Blu-ray

Well, it’s a modern Blu-ray of a modern film, so looking anything less than great would be ridiculous. It’s a low-budget film, so is never going to look as good as Avatar or something, but if you want to count every hair in Brian Cox’s unusually erratic beard, then you could probably do so. There were a couple of moments where the incidental music almost drowned out the dialogue, which may have been a deliberate choice by the director, or may have been bad sound mixing; I guess we’ll never know.

The only extra is a brief (5 mins) Q&A with the director after a screening. It’s quite interesting as far as it goes, but that isn’t really very far. Apparently the Australian Blu-ray release has a more impressive slate of extras.

Still, I’m not too worried about extras. The film is decent enough, it made me jump a few times, and more importantly, it kept me awake the night after I’d seen it – always the hallmark of quality in a horror flick. The effects and the ending let it down slightly, but that tends to be true of horror films however good or bad they are otherwise. This is pretty good, all in all.

(No idea if the images I've uploaded will ever actually be visible.)

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Comments on this review

  • Pointress published 24/07/2017
    vh
  • rolandrat123 published 23/07/2017
    ex
  • Violet1278 published 17/07/2017
    An excellent review. E from me.
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Product Information : The Autopsy of Jane Doe (Blu-ray)

Manufacturer's product description

Product Details

Actor(s) (Last name, First name): Cox, Brian

Production Year: 2016

EAN: 5055761910117

DVD Region: Blu-ray

Classification: 15 years and over

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Listed on Ciao since: 28/06/2017