THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE (2016)(REVIEW)
The arrival of a Jane Doe brings with it a supernatural enigma for father-and-son coroners, and soon they’re left isolated with an evil force.
Tommy (Brian Cox) and son, Austin (Emile Hirsch) live in a big house in the middle of nowhere, which also happens to be their place of work. At the beginning of the movie, Austin’s girlfriend shows up wanting to see one of the bodies in their basement mortuary. We get a hint of what’s in store when Tommy explains that the bell tied around the corpse’s ankle was an old tradition that coroners used on the off-chance that people were comatose and not actually dead. After a bizarre local homicide, the body of an unidentified woman is brought in and the sheriff wants answers by morning. Despite the coroners finding fractured joints, scarred organs, burned lungs and vaginal cuts, there are no external markings on the body. Her waist appears small and misshapen as if by the long-term wear of a corset, and there are other clues that link back to hundreds of years ago.
The surgical procedures and prosthetics used during the autopsy are excellent, and director André Øvredal made the right choice in using an actress to play Jane rather than a dummy. It adds to the realism and allows a much more human connection with the audience. Irish actress and model, Olwen Catherine Kelly, made a captivating corpse and possesses an eerie kind of beauty that adds to her intrigue. What’s more, Olwen was able to use her knowledge of yoga to help control her body and breathing.
A storm starts to brew and before long, the lights are playing up and the cold chamber doors are opening by themselves. Also take note of the radio switching stations and the clips of conversation that could be taken as indirect warnings – nice touch there. The weirdest discovery the coroners make is a piece of cloth inside Jane’s stomach, which she’s been made to swallow. The imagery and Roman numerals on the fabric, as well as the writing on the inside of Jane’s skin, are indicative of a ritualistic sacrifice. The escalating storm kills the lights and cuts off the power, at which stage Tommy rightly suggests that they get the fuck out of there. He and Austin hide in another room and we’re treated with that inevitable bell ringing. Yep, the corpse from earlier is now wandering around … or is it?
From the very beginning of this movie, the coroners have no idea what kind of force they’re dealing with – what’s real and what’s hallucination. It’s all about atmosphere, performance and build-up as one weird event leads to another. We do get glimpses of things: silhouettes, roaming corpses and faces popping up through peepholes. Jane is the cause, but how and why?
After a failed cremation that leaves Jane unmarred and severely pissed off, Tommy is beset by unexplained attacks. Austin cuts into Jane’s brain and examines it under a microscope, leading to one of the creepiest moments of the film: the cells are still active! There’s an energy keeping Jane alive, and every time the coroners returned to the lab, I expected her to jump up in a murderous rage. Thankfully, the film deviates from that predictable route and we’re taken back to the age of the Salem witch trials. With all of the evidence pieced together, Tommy’s theory is that the torturing of innocent girls created the monster that everybody feared. Each time Jane is found, she feeds off people’s energy in order to slowly resurrect herself and leaves behind a trail of unsolved homicides. Jane is still suffering and will stop at nothing to get her revenge. Once again, she succeeds in doing so . . .
The conclusion seems to be hit and miss with viewers, some claiming that it was either too abrupt or not explosive enough. In other words: no shaky cameras, Donald Duck voices or laughable CGI. Instead we have a well-crafted, suspenseful and original entry into the horror-paranormal genre. The inclusion of documented historical events and witchcraft make for quite a chilling watch.