I learned a valuable lesson last night that I’d like to pass along to all of you, dear readers. Are you listening? Good…here it is: do not, under any circumstances, watch The Autopsy of Jane Doe alone at night in the dark. Movies as terrifying as Autopsy should be viewed in daylight only, with a crowd of close friends nearby so that you can all look at each other and giggle nervously as if you’re not afraid; but you will be afraid.
Written by Ian Goldberg and Richard Naing, The Autopsy of Jane Doe starts out with a nice, gory autopsy (go figure, right?) being performed by a father (Tommy) and son (Austin) played by the venerable Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch respectively. Other than the gore, all seems pretty ordinary as the two work side-by-side, the father clearly being the subject-matter expert looking to pass his expertise onto his son.
Soon they decide to wrap up for the day so young Austin locks the corpse in its locker and is surprised by a visit from his girlfriend Emma (Ophelia Lovibond). Before they can head out on their date, the local sheriff stops by with a fresh corpse that was found in the basement of a murder scene and tells Tommy that he needs a cause of death determined by the morning. Feeling bad leaving his father on his own, Austin tells Emma that he needs to help him but will be done quickly enough for the two to go out later so he sends her on her way.
Upon opening the body bag, they are both equally a bit perplexed (Austin more so than Tommy) to find what appears to be an unscathed, attractive young woman. Upon further examination the two find that the outside appearance certainly does not equal what lies inside. As they work, the clues keep piling up and the storm moves in…figuratively and literally.
The relentless tension that director André Øvredal (Trollhunter) effortlessly built kept me on the edge of my seat while at the same time had me wanting to crawl under my couch and hide. The performances of Cox and Hirsch were fantastically believable which only added to the growing terror I felt while barely making it through this scare-fest.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe is easily on my shortlist of the best horror films of 2016…maybe even the best.
Stay gory my friends.