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A group of Mardi Gras party people end up losing in a game of car vs. tree, which leaves them stranded in buttf*ck nowhere. Luckily for them, an ambulance shows up and takes them all to "Mercy Hospital" (oh, the irony). The hospital is seemingly devoid of patients and manned by some of the worst staff this side of my hometown's hospital. If that wasn't enough, the hospital is also home to a some rather illegal experiments conducted by the quite nutty Dr. David Benway, whose aim is to save the life of his dying wife from cancer. How? By doing the ol' switcheroo with healthy body parts and organs, of course!
AUTOPSY peaked my interest in a couple ways. On one hand, the film was directed by Adam Gierasch, who just so happens to be helming the upcoming NIGHT OF THE DEMONS remake that I'm now itching to see. On the other hand, I wanted wade through this past year's crop of After Dark Horrorfest entries and pull out a good one. To say that I was satisfied with the results is an understatement. AUTOPSY redeems Gierasch's scriptwork in MOTHER OF TEARS entirely, psychs me up for NOTD, and gives a whole new meaning to the idea of malpractice.
The first thing you'll notice about AUTOPSY is the fact that, unlike some of the current genre fare, it uses a strong colour palette in its visuals. Instead of the gritty, washed-out look we've been privy to in horror films for the last couple of years, AUTOPSY reminds me of Dario Argento's efforts of the 70s and 80s like INFERNO. The film uses a striking array of bright colors, giving the whole thing a surreal look that helped the film immensely in its tone.
For the players in the film, the standout for me was Jessica Lowndes, who genre fans will recognize from the Masters Of Horror episode Dance of the Dead and THE HAUNTING OF MOLLY HARTLEY. Despite being the cliché heroine through it all, she does a remarkable job of holding her own against the likes of Robert Patrick and Jenette Goldstein. Patrick is over-the-top and delightfully evil as Benway, and Goldstein as the quirky head nurse is a treat to see, especially with the wiping of the telephone receiver. Little things like that make the performance that much better.
Obviously, with a name like AUTOPSY, you're not going to be getting a sanitized version of GREY'S ANATOMY. There is some truly awesome gore here for you, including some stuff totally out of left field in its execution. Aside from the lopped-off limbs, stabs and slashes, there's a particular tree you have to see, along with some gut-spewing and a rather unpleasant homage to IRREVERSIBLE (and no, it's not a rape scene). Oh yes, and a sandblaster being used to remove fingerprints, but not from the glass. Gierasch also threw in some black comedy moments that help to break up the gore train, which was a good move to spare the audience from seeing another HOSTEL.
The film unfortunately stumbles when it comes to the use of tired clichés in its characters and storyline. The start of the film screams 'I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER', while our group of protagonists are straight out of the Stereotypical Horror Movie Character Handbook. Gierasch probably wasn't trying to reinvent the wheel with this film, but a little more variety would've helped. The story also gets hung out to dry in the latter part of the film, and is replaced by successive gory moments that lead up to an ending that feels out of place and lacking.
The prognosis for AUTOPSY is excellent. Having some masterful visuals and spectacular gore effects, mixed in with some memorable performances by Lowndes, Patrick and Goldstein, make this at the very least a weekend rental. It's a gorefest that's light on story and character depth, but it's a fun one. Don't forget to turn your head and cough.
Video: To say that the clean, 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is colourful is an understatement. Great saturation of reds, greens and blues, with a relative absence of excessive grain. The black levels are a bit on the weak side, with a few instances of ghosting, but those issues are relatively minor.
Audio: The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix thunders with its largely frontal focus. The soundtrack might be a little too focused in the centre channel for some, but at least it's clear and free of any distortion.
Starting things off is a commentary with director Adam Gierasch, writers Jace Anderson and Evan Katz, actor Ross McCall and producer Jessica Horowitz. Given the number of folks involved, this is a rather lively commentary, with an obvious camaraderie between everyone involved.
Next up is "Behind The Scenes:In the Operating Room", a 20-minute doc that's fairly standard, but thankfully covers the effects, which are undoubtedly the highlight of the film.
Following that is the alternate ending, which is much darker in tone and could be seen as a better conclusion to the film than what's in there now.
Finally, there's the return of the Ms. Horrorfest Webisodes, which feature some moderately attractive goth chicks vying for the title of Ms. Horrorfest by doing various competitions. Yeah, I don't know why, either.
As with the other releases this year, AUTOPSY gets a cool lenticular slipcase featuring its onesheet, which itself is simple yet effective.
A pleasant surprise from this past year's After Dark Horrorfest, AUTOPSY is a gorehound's delight with some appropriate dark humour thrown in to mix things up a little. Add to that some striking visuals and sound, along with a few fun extras, and it's an easy recommendation for those who need a reason to not go to the hospital.