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Categories: Movie Reviews

Both simple and satisfying, The Autopsy of Jane Doe has the makings of an instant modern horror classic that you don’t want to miss out on.

Following his international breakout success with Trollhunter, Norwegian filmmaker André Øvredal has been debuting his first English language feature over the past year through various film festivals and screening platforms. As the film finds its way to UK screens for a limited time, it’s worth highlighting how much you should believe the hype about The Autopsy of Jane Doe; the short, but deliciously well-measured, story of a small-town father and son coroner team (Brian Cox and Emile Hirsh) who are tasked with uncovering the identity and cause of death of a young Jane Doe, found half buried in the cellar of a house full of murdered occupants. From the premise alone you can tell how deep the film’s roots run into the soil of the uniquely macabre American horror genre. Edgar Allen Poe. H.P Lovecraft. The influence can be felt very strongly and, if you’re a horror fan, it’s very fun to see on the big screen after so much time. Though, this isn’t to say that it’s a literary experience, or that its enjoyment is gleaned by viewing it from a literary perspective. It’s a visual journey that focusses on some, again, very simple but elegant sound design choices to deliver the film’s main scares. Øvredal demonstrates not only a clear talent but a clear understanding of the genre; he keeps the film as stripped down as possible to focus on the atmosphere of the overall picture.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe plays out very much like a video game. Not like the old school survival RPG’s or mission/objective games. Like the new, immersive, ones;
designed to creep you out slowly, hauntingly. Øvredal gives himself a very small set to work in and maps it out, vividly. You acclimatise to the environment quickly
and relate to the character’s situation more easily; you begin to adopt their thinking. Where would I go? What would I do in this situation? It’s the foundation of horror as entertainment and Øvredal nails the pace of it perfectly.

Cox and Hirsch have just the right amount of chemistry for their relationship to be believable but not stale. The two characters have very different approaches and responses to stimuli but they’re able to work together, like you would expect from two people who had known each other and worked in this small space for so long. The centerpiece to it all is of course our Jane Doe, “played” by Olwen Catherine Kelly, who becomes a horror icon simply by virtue of lying still. A memorably impressive feat. Her omnipresence during the increasingly unnerving course of events creates that essential razor’s edge quality to the film. She’s the embodiment of that empty space that horror directors like to leave in the shot so you’re always anxious that something will burst out at you. So much of horror is anticipation and uncertainty. When you’re presented with something clear to fight or run from then the fleeting feeling of terror is gone. It’s the not knowing that undoes your nerves and the simple solution that Øvredal uses for ensuring that this feeling is injected straight into the heart of the film is brilliant. There is something terrifying about unearthing the unknown. Opening a crypt, discovering a secret, obtaining a forbidden knowledge. The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a pure slice of this sensation. It’s a rare experience, so snatch it up while you can.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe will be released in select UK cinemas on March 31st and will be released digitally on 19th June and DVD/VOD 26th June.

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Posted on Mar 29, 2017

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