Movie Review: The Autopsy of Jane Doe

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The Autopsy of Jane Doe

IFC Midnight

Available in digital HD



I really do love horror films and fiction, but I’ve gotten to where I always have one problem: Most fail to impress me anymore. I find as I’ve watched and read more horror over the years, I’ve gotten picky. I don’t particularly like the latest wave of horror–overdone violence and gore that attempts to scare in it’s extremity rather than actually getting under the watcher’s skin.

Personally, I prefer horror that preys on the foundations of what actually scares and unsettles us; the abject, the unexpected, and the out of place. Anymore, writers tend to lean on only the abject to the exclusion of the other two. It gets to the point where it’s desensitizing or simply gross, and there’s little that’s actually scary about it.

That was where The Autopsy of Jane Doe impressed me.


The movie stars Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch, and begins with what appears to be small town police finding a perfectly intact corpse buried beneath a house. They take it to the coroner (Cox) and his assistant son (Hirsch) for an immediate autopsy.

What follows begins as a slowly creepy series of findings, each one stranger than the next. The film then artfully begins slipping in small, eerie things. The radio turns itself on, and switches to an ominously cheery old song. Thumps sound in the old building’s duct work.  A bell cheekily tied to the ankle of another corpse rings.

The film plays on classic techniques to slowly amp up the tension until we’ve got a full blown horror film with mobile corpses roaming the hallways in off-camera darkness (thus sparing us from any cheesy effects or imagery that could ruin the scene. Besides, our imagination surely conjures something frightening enough).

While the concept revealed is something that could have rendered the plot as overdone or silly, the movie manages to keep on the right side of tasteful and still keeps it’s spooky tone. It could have almost done without that particular reveal, but it doesn’t really spoil the movie.

Both Cox and Hirsch do an excellent job of playing scientific minds that are baffled by the odd, supernatural phenomena they’re presented with. Rather than feeling like they’ve accepted it too quickly, you can see it’s not much of a leap when confronted by the weirdness dropped on their table.

It’s a nicely creepy film, and one horror buffs should enjoy. It’s currently available for rent and on demand from cable providers, amazon, itunes, etc.



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JL JamiesonMovie Review: The Autopsy of Jane Doe