Director: Andre Ovredal | 84 minutes | Lionsgate | Available to download 19th June, DVD. VOD & Blu-ray 26th June
Experienced coroner Tommy Tilden and his son Austin run a family-owned morgue and crematorium in Virginia. When the local Sheriff brings in an emergency case – an unknown corpse named ‘Jane Doe’, found in the basement of a home where a multiple homicide took place – it seems like just another case.But as the autopsy proceeds, these seasoned professionals are left reeling as each layer of their inspection brings frightening new revelations. Perfectly preserved on the outside, Jane Doe’s insides have been scarred, charred and dismembered. As Tommy and Austin begin to piece together these gruesome discoveries, an unnatural force takes hold of the crematorium.
Winning praise and fans across the world, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is the first English language film of Andre Ovredal – director of the 2010 hit Troll Hunter. This movie is very different in tone and scale, yet it is just as rewarding.
While Troll Hunter was big in more than one sense of the word, Jane Doe is small scale. It is essentially restricted to just a morgue, ran by father Tommy (Cox) and Austin (Nirsch). The story occasionally strays away from these confides but Ovredal generally keeps his feature in one location. As a result the film will give the viewer a feeling of being stuck in the room with the characters as the strange tale unfurls and things become more disturbing.
The environment of a morgue is unsettling for most anyway, Ovredal using it for the setting of a horror movie. It’s obviously a place that is associated with death and the exploration of the subject in a literal and physical way. Ovredal adds a slant that makes the dead and their ‘after life’ more uncanny and unnerving.
With it’s limited locations Jane Doe is limited in it’s performances too. But the actors involved are capable of handling most of the screen time. Of course there’s the original onscreen Hannibal Lecter/Lecktor himself Brian Cox, who plays the role so well it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing the part (Martin Sheen was originally approached). Emile Hirsch is the youthful, good looking son who fills in the gaps with his role doing much of the questioning of what is happening.
Although this is a horror movie for the early going it actually doesn’t feel like one. It’s more like a suspense or crime film, with the coroners trying to discover what actually happened to their Jane Doe. It’s only when they start to cut open the corpse and learn things about the deceased they never expected that things start to stray towards horror and even the supernatural. There are even elements of body horror, with some disturbing alterations having been made to the body of ‘Jane Doe’.
The sole extra is a brief on stage interview with Ovredal in which he touches upon Troll Hunter working against him, the casting of Tommy and a few other matters.
A candidate for release of the year, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is simple story telling that produces something extraordinary.