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Review: "The Autopsy of Jane Doe" (2016)


Title: The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

Genre: Horror, Mystery

Director: André Øvredal

Stars: Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch, Olwen Kelly

Bias: After watching Dead Snow (2009), I’m generally skeptical of any Norwegian’s attempt to make a horror movie.

Grade: C+

In a Nutshell:

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) opens with the aftermath of a triple homicide. A couple was brutally murdered in their own home, yet their house shows no sign of a forced entry. In the basement, the police find a third corpse, a half-buried Jane Doe (Olwen Kelly) whose naked body is perfectly intact and seemingly free of any wounds.

The mysterious Jane Doe is handed off to a father-and-son team of coroners, Tommy (Brian Cox) and Austin (Emile Hirsch) Tilden. The Tilden family has been in the morgue business since 1919, but Austin has other plans for his life. Although he doesn’t want to work as a coroner anymore, he feels guilty about leaving his dad behind. When the town sheriff brings the Jane Doe in, Austin blows off a date with his girlfriend to help his dad find the body’s cause of death.

As the night unfolds, Austin and Tommy are continually dumbfounded with each hidden clue they find on (and inside) the corpse. Just who is this strange woman, and how and why did she die?

The Critique:

For the first hour or so, the movie’s great. Austin and Tommy have a very enjoyable chemistry, and unlike so many other horror protagonists, aren’t just there to get mutilated and tormented. There might be a bizarre mystery to solve, but the pair also has some personal problems beyond what’s going on at work.

The mystery at the center of the movie is also very intriguing. An autopsy sounds like a pretty straightforward affair, but every little twist along the way kept me interested and thinking.

With the reveal of Jane Doe’s identity in act three, however, the movie ditches the subtle mystery route and opts instead for a supernatural rollercoaster ride. We’re treated to some chase scenes, a couple of jump scares, gore, and a largely needless elevator killing. Sure, it’s still fun, but it’s just another horror movie from here.

To Go, to Rent, or to Netflix:

To rent. The third act might be disappointing, but the movie’s still worth paying money to see.

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