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The Autopsy of Jane Doe
by André Øvredal

Here’s to another gem that 2016 so ungrudgingly offered to all of us horror fans. The Autopsy of Jane Doe is the kind of horror movie that you don’t want to miss; not because you’ll be irreparably scarred, but because it’s so beautifully crafted, that it’s bound to get your undivided attention.

So, what’s the story that director André Øvredal wants to tell? It’s quite simple. The clever and gloomy narrative, hatched up by screenwriters Ian Goldberg and Richard Naing, follows Tommy (Brian Cox) and Austin Tilden (Emile Hirsch), a father and son duo who work at one of the most inherently eerie places one could work: a morgue. Øvredal’s choice of Cox and Hirsch worked wonders, as their dynamic is so beautifully painted in the opening scenes where we sense a more playful tone highlighting Tommy’s expertise and Austin’s rookieness.

The movie goes to the dark, grim side rather quickly. As the police investigate a house full of brutally murdered bodies, we immediately understand that Øvredal is not going to hold back on the gore. It’s not the massacre and the violently butchered bodies that catch our attention, but it’s the naked, half-buried body of a woman in the basement that looks intact, immaculate even.

It’s up to coroner Tommy and his assistant son to solve the mystery behind this bizarre death and unearth the secrets of Jane Doe’s dead body. And it’s exactly because Øvredal doesn’t hold back on the gore that once the body is placed on the steel table everything becomes quite explicit. Ultimately, we’re talking about a creepy story about two talented men, whose knack for science breaks against a wall of an unknown supernatural power.

His idea to combine this amount of gore with a still, yet sinister, ambience and furthermore, to accent the motionless body of Jane Doe (beautifully played by Olwen Catherine Kelly), requires great skill and flair; apparently Øvredal has them both.

Having created the perfect set-up of a spooky morgue and utilising Cox and Hirsch’s strong performances, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a horror movie worth every minute of it. Of course, it has its flaws and the foreseen climax is not impeccable, but the story is well-thought and efficiently crafted, so its sins can be somehow overlooked.

In the end, it’s Øvredal’s skillful set-up that made The Autopsy of Jane Doe what it is; a clever and yet chilling flick that stands out from the rest of the haunted-house movies. Even though you’ll be able to identify the movie’s main focus way before the talented father-and-son duo, the first hour is so entertaining and well-crafted, that any minor flaws of the finale are easily forgiven. And luckily, unlike the ghastly corpse of Jane Doe, this movie is far from lifeless.

Maria Kriva, HMS

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