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Benjamin Biryukov
Benjamin Biryukov

The Autopsy Of Jane Doe

Tommy and Austin perform the autopsy and quickly become confused. There are no external visible signs of trauma, but her wrist and ankle bones had been shattered. Her tongue has been crudely cut out, one of her molars is missing, her lungs are blackened as though she had suffered third degree burns, and her internal organs reveal numerous cuts and scarring. Jimsonweed, a paralyzing agent not native to the area, is found in her stomach. The condition of much of the body suggests that death had just occurred, while cloudiness of the corpse's eyes suggests she has been dead for several days.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe


Continuing the autopsy, Tommy finds the woman's missing tooth wrapped in a piece of cloth in her stomach. The cloth has Roman numerals, letters, and an odd diagram. Similar symbols are found on the inside of her skin. All the lights in the room suddenly explode. During the confusion, they realize other corpses in the morgue have gone missing. They decide to leave, but the elevator does not work and a fallen tree is blocking the exit door. An unseen figure leaves bruises on Tommy when he goes to the bathroom.

They return to the autopsy room and again examine the corpse. When the door locks itself, Austin hacks it with an emergency axe. Through an opening, they see one of the missing corpses. Unable to get to the cremation furnace, they set the corpse ablaze in the exam room. The fire spreads rapidly; Tommy puts it out with an extinguisher but is disturbed to find the body has not burned. When the elevator turns back on, Tommy and Austin try to escape, but the doors will not close. Panicked, Tommy uses an axe against what he believes to be one of the animated corpses. When he and Austin exit the elevator, they discover he has killed Emma, who had returned to meet Austin.

The build up in this horror film, one that tries to play with the classic haunted house genre, is superb. It opens with a scene that imbues the film immediately with a great sense of mystery. We then cut to the location where the rest of the film will take place, an old crematorium come mortuary run by a father and son. The place oozes character and serves as a fantastic location for a horror film. There is this palpable feel of the dead, strengthened by the first autopsy scene.

IFC Midnight has unveiled the first trailer for the upcoming horror film The Autopsy of Jane Doe. The film hails from Troll Hunter director André Øvredal and stars Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch as a father/son duo who run their family-owned morgue in Virginia. One night, an unknown female corpse is brought in after being found in the basement of a home where a multiple homicide took place. However, as the two begin their autopsy, strange goings-on take place, and they soon begin to question how dead this woman really is.

The acclaimed screenplay, by Ian B. Goldberg and Richard Naing, occasionally goes for deeper parallelism than the director seems interested in exploring. We learn that Tommy's wife, whom he nicknamed "Ray" for being his ray of sunshine, suffered from depression and killed herself; mirroring this dichotomy, "Open up Your Heart (and Let the Sunshine in)" plays menacingly on the radio in times of peril (and once when the dead girl's heart is literally being cut open). The autopsy constantly reveals that, in the most literal sense, things inside a person are not as they appear on the outside, yet the Tildens and their relatively simple characterizations aren't complex enough characters to really play out this theme, though both Cox and Hirsch give them a gravitas and a bond lesser thespians might have flubbed.

As their autopsy continues, they recognize more bizarre things about her health prior to death, yet nothing conclusive for the cause. The further they dive into the mystery, the more aware they become of supernatural occurrences within their facility. From strange sounds to unnatural sightings, the father-son duo try to solve the puzzle as their autopsy becomes increasingly difficult and dangerous.

Øvredal also ups his game by casting the brilliant Brian Cox as Tommy Tilden. Cox is an actor of subtle skill and commanding presence. He brings a lovely sense of gravitas to the film and immediately engages us in the unraveling of a mystery through the meticulous process of an autopsy. He also displays just the right amount of morgue humor. One scene involving belling the corpses is especially nice.

While coronial examinations often play a key role in horror films, they are rarely used as the main venue of horror itself. Sometimes coronial scenes help to regulate suspense, establishing a narrative field for suspense to ramify elsewhere. Sometimes they are used as a source of cosiness, whether the cosiness of routine or a more domestic cosiness. And sometimes they are used as a source of gore, or as a platform for visceral images. Yet they rarely function as suspenseful spaces in and of themselves as effectively as they do in The Autopsy of Jane Doe, which takes place, in its entirety, in a morgue run by father-and-son team Tommy Tilden (Brian Cox) and Austin Tilden (Emile Hirsch). The Tildens are just preparing to close up shop for the night, and Austin is on the verge of spending the evening with his girlfriend Emma (Ophelia Lovibond), when the local sheriff arrives with a body that needs a cause of death determined by the next morning. The body, a young woman, has been found buried in the basement of a house where four homicides occurred earlier that day, and performing an autopsy is a top priority. Tommy and Austin therefore set out to work all night, laying out the body of Jane Doe on the examining table, and getting to work.

Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox star in the indie flick as father-son coroners tasked with performing an autopsy on a mysterious young woman, and the result is one of the most affecting films to hit Hollywood in quite some time. If you're a horror fan looking for a new, solid movie to spend an hour and change with, this is your best bet. Here are some spoiler-free reasons.

Austin's girlfriend Emma (Ophelia Lovibond) arrives at the morgue to pick him up for their planned date night. Austin and Tommy give Emma a brief tour of their workplace in the basement of the family home before they're interrupted by the arrival of the Sheriff (Michael McElhatton) with Jane Doe (Olwen Kelly) in tow. Demands for answers by morning triggers Austin's guilt, and he postpones his date with Emma to assist his dad with Jane Doe's autopsy, though he promises to meet up with her later that evening.Almost immediately, this autopsy perplexes the seasoned coroners. Jane Doe bears no outward signs of trauma, but cutting into her body reveals severe damage, scarring, and mutilation beneath the surface. The more bizarre symptoms and clues they discover, the more they're terrorized by paranormal activity while a raging storm rolls in outside the morgue walls. The radio develops a mind of its own, Tommy's cat is discovered mortally injured in the vents, the lights go out, and the stored corpses take on a mind of their own. Realizing that Jane Doe is somehow causing everything they've been experiencing, father and son decide to incinerate Jane Doe in the exam room to free themselves from her grip. The fire threatens to engulf the place, so Tommy puts it out only to realize Jane Doe remains untouched. They decide to drop everything and flee.

The film then turns from C.S.I. into a horror film, with the meticulous nature of these coroners, that we witnessed from the first act, fueling the tension for the remainder of the film as each clue they learn from the autopsy drives them deeper into this supernatural terror. Now, this could have easily become a standard horror film with the typical jump scares that have been used ad nauseam in so many recent films. Fortunately, for us, André Øvredal does not paint by numbers with his camera, and the result is the feel of a much more original film, with something new to say. 041b061a72


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