The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) Revisited – Horror Movie Review

The new episode of the Best Horror Movie You Never Saw video series looks at Andre Ovredal’s The Autopsy of Jane Doe

The episode of Best Horror Movie You Never Saw covering The Autopsy of Jane Doe was Written and Edited by Paul Bookstaber, Narrated by Kier Gomes, Produced by John Fallon and Tyler Nichols, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.

Horror films have covered and regurgitated the same type of antagonists that have graced the silver screen for quite some time. We’re talking vampires, serial killers, zombies, supernatural entities, and many more. it’s all been done and dusted, just waiting for the day to be brought back into the limelight with a new untold spin that brings viewers in. Surprisingly enough, there comes a director every now and then, who likes to tackle something new and innovative to the genre. It could be revenge-ridden gypsies, or a group of cultists who want newfound wealth; hell how about an upcoming pilgrim who slashes his victims on Thanksgiving in very creative and blood-thirsty ways? In 2016, Trollhunter director Andre Ovredal brought us a film, big and bold in its reveal, covering a particular component not told much in horror flicks. A film with a skin-crawling creep factor that hits at a terrifying level, especially with all the lights turned off. We’re talking about The Autopsy of Jane Doe (watch it HERE), and it just so happens it might be one of THE BEST HORROR MOVIES YOU NEVER SAW.

Norwegian director Andre Ovredal broke through the movie circuit with his 2010 breakout smash, Trollhunter. Not only was it apparent that Andre had a distinct flair when it came to overall scope of Trollhunter, but it also laid claim that Andre had the bravado to create future Hollywood films if the call came for it. Autopsy of Jane Doe was Andre Overdal’s third film, so he doesn’t hold the established weight of other horror director legends such as Craven, Carpenter, Friedkin, or Romero, but by God, he hits a grand slam with Jane Doe, and it shows. Andre Overdal masterfully executes the spine-tingling nature of its dread through the actions of a new antagonist; only this time – she’s dead on a slab? Pale to the bone? Milky white corneas? Not moving at all. Not very intimidating to say the least, or so we think? Are you sure this is a best horror movie, or should we just end it here? Let me help you journey inward to this gem of a flick.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe centers on two coroners, father and son, Austin and Tommy who encounter a cadaver drop off by the local town sheriff, by the name Jane Doe, only because there isn’t proof of life to her name. The sheriff needs the cause of death no later than the next morning due to pending investigation from where the body was originally found, which showcases a very unsettling setup to start this nightmare off right. Nothing like family bonding time with a late-night autopsy between father and son with unusual circumstances involved. Now the meat and potatoes of the film is the mystery involving the body of Jane Doe, which can maybe sway any college hopefuls into become crime scene investigators, morticians, and coroners. It’s incredibly fascinating stuff when the autopsy gets going, even more so when you throw the horror elements into the mix. Austin and Tommy observe the body and even though the body seems unscathed, Jane Doe hides many secrets then she lets on. As the father in the movie, Tommy Tilden says, “Everybody hides a secret, some just hide it better than others.” When both Tommy and Austin discover many unsettling things throughout the autopsy, things start to go haywire resulting in a night of disturbing events.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe best horror

Many horror movies throughout the years have played all the same familiar tropes, which causes me not to have those “goosebump, hair-raising moments.” I can honestly say that Autopsy of Jane Doe feels fresh, captivating, and unique which caused some of those missing feelings from past movies to suddenly reappear. It subverts any expectations I had going in. Maybe it’s due to the wonderful eerie, ominous, and monotone score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans. Maybe it’s the framing of the film by cinematographer, Roman Osin, where the framing feels tight through its use of closeups and medium shots. We’re trapped in with Austin and Tommy as they uncover the secrets to Jane Doe. Roman Osin also uses negative space in the frames to have your eyes look in the background. There can be a moment where something strikes at any time. The environment in Jane Doe also adds a lot of impact to the film. It takes place inside the Tilden’s basement, which serves as a fully functioning morgue leaving us cold and cramped. Tack on a few dead bodies chilling on ice, and It’s the perfect setting to have within a horror movie. The formula displayed within Autopsy feels warranted that we can’t take our eyes away from the action that unfolds in front of us. Sure, its grotesque and bone crunching, but that’s what I’m here for. As Stone Cold Steve Austin says, “Give me a hell yeah.”

Another component that works are its two main stars, Austin and Tommy, played by Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox as they try to uncover the truth to their new night-time visitor. It’s great chemistry, played with truth and believability, especially by Brian Cox’s Tommy. Tommy has had his skin in the game for quite some time as a very experienced coroner. He wants Austin to take over the practice, as Tommy is starting to hit those golden years and why not pass down your wealth of knowledge to your son on a lucrative and thriving family business? We all know Brian Cox from HBO’s Succession as the cold-hearted, egotistical, borderline abusive, father Logan Roy, or even William Striker from X-Men 2. Who can even forget Michael Mann’s Manhunter with Cox as Hannibal Lecter? Brian Cox is one of the best working actors today and he plays a comforting, knowledgeable, yet stern father in Tommy. Austin Tilden, played by Emile Hirsch is a great counterpoint to Tommy. He’s trying to juggle that time helping his father with the business and being around his girlfriend Emma. Emile Hirsch plays Austin with wonder, always willing to learn new tricks from his dad even if he isn’t looking to carry the practice onward once his father is gone. He also has some scene stealers in this film, which gives him separation from other titles like The Girl Next Door, Alpha Dog, and Speed Racer.

Now let’s talk about our golden gal, Miss Creepy on the slab, Jane Doe. The movie works brilliantly due to its setup of a murder investigation which turns into diabolical, supernatural mayhem by the time the credits roll. The autopsy comes off as something from a detective thriller like Seven or The Bone Collector. With each body part analyzed by Tommy and Austin, comes another clue deciphering its inevitable conclusion which is a great touch to have. I don’t want to spoil the antagonist’s origin, because we don’t usually get enough of it in horror, but it works wonderfully here. Jane Doe is a force. A terrifying whirlwind that destroys anything in its path, manipulating the minds of those who cross her path. She even comes with a cute little radio jingle that haunts her unsuspecting victims inside the morgue. To say the whole package Jane Doe comes with is an understatement, especially her ability to not burn when it comes to being set ablaze as a last-ditch tactic or creating some late-night ghouls involving the family cat, a little call-bell, some electrical outages, and explosions.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe best horror

The actress that played her was Olwen Catherine Kelly. Director Andre Ovredal claimed she was the most integral part of the production. No puppetry was used, as Olwen was there on the slab being a team player throughout majority of the whole production. She was also cast first as Jane Doe, and Andre claimed if he was doing close-up shots of prosthetics with Jane Doe, it wouldn’t have worked, so he went almost full-practical. She was also cast for the role due to her experience with yoga, meditation, controlling her body, and breathing. She definitely had that creep factor in all her scenes and Jane Doe can potentially be one of those legacy horror characters if they’re willing to give a sequel a chance, although not really needed.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival with an extremely positive reception. The box-office however, turned out to be lukewarm with only six million dollars. Crazy, considering its lightyears better than some of its yearly competition in 2016 like The Belko Experiment, the reboot/requel/sequel of Blair Witch, The Purge: Election Year, and Lights Out. It currently sits at a critical fresh rating of 86% with an audience score of 71%. Very strong numbers. You can also check it out now on Hulu streaming.

This film is quite a surprise for the horror genre. We’re used to the stalking, the slashing, the supernatural POV flicks, but Jane Doe brings something new to the table. Not only does Jane Doe have a great script, but it just has a good scare/creep factor to it. What’s scarier than knowing a “dead” body can cause so much mayhem, and chaos within a basement morgue where you don’t know what’s real and what isn’t? You’re at the mercy of a being who makes you want to suffer just as much as she did. When a horror movie brings something fresh to the table it makes you feel like a kid on Christmas, and with Autopsy of Jane Doe, we got just that. Just try to keep both eyes open during your viewing.

A couple previous episodes of the Best Horror Movie You Never Saw series can be seen below. To see more, and to check out some of our other shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.