Directed by: André Øvredal
Cast: Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Ophelia Lovibond
The Autopsy of Jane Doe set out to disorientate with uncommon practices and a general abandonment of the familiar tropes that litter genre fare on the regular. While this becomes an obviously intentional device early, the realization that we’re in store for something different still feels a bit shocking. But it’s a good shock, and you can bet on that.
Father/son duo Tommy and Austin Tilden, played by Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch, respectively, are absolutely flawless. They both sport strange idiosyncrasies and there’s a friendly father/son rivalry just beneath the surface that keeps both characters likeable and genuinely endearing. When a Jane Doe gets rolled into their exam room, things take a strange turn. While Austin has a chance to get away from the body (that’s begun to leave both men feeling slightly uneasy) he just can’t. He’s drawn to that corpse, for one reason or another, and shortly after his window of escape opens and closes, all hell breaks loose for these two medical examiners.
The final act of the film is a huge surprise. Everything we believe is going to happen as the story wraps is cast aside with no regard. The climax we get is pretty leftfield, nearly unpredictable in nature and damn jarring. The film’s transition from subtle and slow burn chills to full-fledged terror is great, and while some may be thrown off by such a large scale shift in momentum, I adored it, because, as already noted, I never in a million years anticipated that conclusion. I expected the slow burn, character first approach to coast through the duration of the film.
But The Autopsy of Jane Doe dares to be truly great.
2016 was crammed full of insanely entertaining movies, giving us perhaps the most stacked year for the genre in a good decade or so. That says a lot, and it also explains how a film like this, which really wasn’t available through VOD outlets until December, was so overlooked on best of lists. It really is one of the strongest pictures of 2016, and if you’re set on seeing every A-class flick released last year, you can’t skip this brilliantly eerie tale of life, death and a terror unnamable.