IFC MIDNIGHT (2017)
Director: André Øvredal
Starring: Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Ophelia Lovibond, Olwen Kelly, Michael McElhatton
Flying in under the radar, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is director André Øvredal’s first English language release and is a sharp, snappy affair that doesn’t rewrite genre rules, but does a fine job of utilising them.
Primarily set within the confines of the local morgue, cinematographer Roman Osin presents us with a grubby looking movie, densely lit and crammed with gloomy colours and shadows. The small building becomes somewhat of a maze with its long corridors being replaced by sharp turns to smaller corridors and rooms, and there doesn’t seem as if there are many places to hide – claustrophobia ensues!
The movie pretty much circles around Hirsch and Cox’s characters, and both deliver stand up performances in a particularly character driven film. I’m glad they were given more spotlight as opposed to being mere fodder. The actors provide enough soul to make the movie work and work well together as a genuine on screen father and son team. Olwen Kelly provided a suitably silent menace as the creepy corpse, all whilst simply just laying there, all naked and ready to be cut up.
The movie moves at a good pace and never felt like it was dragging or getting bogged down in unnecessary exposition, with the autopsy providing the backbone to the majority of the story. As we find out that our Jane Doe may be more than just simply dead, the idea that the body was a riddle in itself begins to shines as a fantastic idea as new clues are uncovered within every organ or orifice. The gore is never over the top or too gratuitous, but if you get queasy easily, you may want to look away during most of the invasive scenes. To no one’s surprise, horror conventions are used throughout – the lights go out, creepy noises overhead, a radio with a mind of its own – but thanks to the razor sharp writing, these only serve to enhance the story and ramp up the tension, all whilst the lifeless cadaver watches the ceiling with dead eyes.
The main criticism of the movie lies in the third acts rather rushed feeling ending, but that may be down to the fact that the two acts prior set up the events and ramped up the tension effectively enough. That being said, it certainly isn’t a bad ending by any means, just the intrigue and mystery served the story slightly better.
Focusing on characters and suspense, The Autopsy of Jane Doe delivers on what a good horror should do – being an effective, sharp and creepy movie. Taking a seemingly simple idea and weaving in clever twists, we are given a brilliantly entertaining ride.
If the corpse doesn’t burn, get the hell out of there…
February 27th 2017