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The Autopsy of Jane Doe (Movie Review)

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (Movie Review)
12.20.2016by: Chris Bumbray
100%
5 10

PLOT: Small-town father-and-son coroners (Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch) perform an emergency, late-night autopsy on the corpse of a young woman whose biology makes no sense.

REVIEW: Of all the films Iíve seen at TIFF this year (nearly twenty as writing this), Andrť Ovredalís THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE is the most frustrating. For a full half of the ninety minute running time, I was convinced I was watching one of the best horror sleepers to come along in years, only to have the carpet pulled out from under me by an utterly conventional, often stupid second half that undid all the goodwill I had built up for the film.

The hook to this one is great, with a small-town sheriff discovering a pristine corpse at a crime scene and having two regular guy coroners examine the body (during a huge storm no less) to discover the cause of death. And really, it couldnít have been cast-better, with Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch playing the father-and-son, and both bringing the best of their abilities to the parts and really conveying a sense of history and love between the two - something which would often be overlooked in a movie like this.

Cox is the veteran coroner, reeling from the recent death of his wife and maybe relying too much on the help of his medical technician son to keep the business going. Hirsch, as said son, hopes for more stimulating work and a different kind of life with his girlfriend (Ophelia Lovibond) but also loves the old man and wants to help him out. Thereís no resentment between the two - as itís shown they really do love each other and work well together as a team.

The early scenes with them opening up the corpse (the striking Olwen Catherine Kelly) are great, with her bizarre wounds and the pristine condition of the outside of her body suggesting something otherworldly. Itís very cool as they look for clues and examine the horribly scarred organs, finding ritualistic wounds, old shrouds, and more. So far, so good. Up to here Ovredal (TROLL HUNTER) seems to be making one hell of a U.S debut.

Too bad itís almost at exactly the half-way mark that the film really goes-off-the-rails, with it becoming just another horror thriller with walking corpses, buckets of blood and little imagination. The ultimate identity of the corpse is shocking in its lack of originality, and even the best efforts of Cox and Hirsch arenít able to keep it from going awry.

It feels almost like Ovredal was forced to compromise what, up to this point, had been a terrific little character study/elevated horror film by checking-off the requisite horror boxes. It all becomes so horribly predictable that by the time the end credits rolled I was shaking my head in disbelief at how completely the film had lost me - as when it started I was thinking this was the best horror film Iíd seen in ages.

Still, Cox and Hirsch are so good, as is that first half, that AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE isnít a total wash, even if the second half is extremely silly. At the very least, itís a half-good film, but thatís a small comfort when up to a certain point I thought I was watching something really special.

Extra Tidbit: This review originally ran as part of our TIFF coverage. AUTOPSY hits VOD on 12/21

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+0
3:11AM on 04/26/2017

I'm not so split on this

I have to agree with kypapa below; I thought this great little gem continued to be clever and scary all the way through. It was a wonderful surprise to see such a good film after I had watched the dismal Love Witch and XX right in a row. I think this one will have legs as a cult favorite in the future. I thought it was very well done.
I have to agree with kypapa below; I thought this great little gem continued to be clever and scary all the way through. It was a wonderful surprise to see such a good film after I had watched the dismal Love Witch and XX right in a row. I think this one will have legs as a cult favorite in the future. I thought it was very well done.
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+1
7:39PM on 04/19/2017

How could you rate this so low?

I just thought this was a really well made horror film. You mention it devolving into a horror film in the second half, but is that not exactly what you should have expected? I mean, I went into it expecting a full on horror flick, and got an added bonus of quality (read: believable) actors as well as an original story. How did you feel it lacked originality? I respect that everyone has differing opinions for everything, but I was shocked to see this film rated quite so poorly on here.
I just thought this was a really well made horror film. You mention it devolving into a horror film in the second half, but is that not exactly what you should have expected? I mean, I went into it expecting a full on horror flick, and got an added bonus of quality (read: believable) actors as well as an original story. How did you feel it lacked originality? I respect that everyone has differing opinions for everything, but I was shocked to see this film rated quite so poorly on here.
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