“The Autopsy of Jane Doe” Screens in Chicago

Genre: Horror Movie
Director: AndreOvredal (US, UK)
99 minutes
Actors: Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Olwen Kelly (as Jane Doe)
Release Date: Dec. 21, 2016
Review by: Connie Wilson (www.ConnieCWilson.com)

As part of the After Dark series of frightening fare at the Chicago Film Festival, veteran actors Brian Cox (the original Hannibal Lecter in 1986’s “Manhunter”) and Emily Hirsch (2007’s “Into the Wild”) are a father/son coroner team assigned to autopsy a beautiful young corpse found at the scene of a harrowing multiple murder. Tommy (Brian Cox) and Austin (Emile Hirsch) Tilden work together at the creepy old Tilden morgue and crematorium in Grantham, Virginia.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe
The Autopsy of Jane Doe

As the father-son team dig deeper into examining Jane Doe’s body, they uncover increasingly strange and terrifying things. Look for a more complete review closer to release date, but be warned that this is bloody, clever, medically rigorous and turns the genre literally inside-out.

As part of the After Dark series of frightening fare at the Chicago Film Festival, veteran actors Brian Cox (the original Hannibal Lecter in 1986’s “Manhunter”) and Emily Hirsch (2007’s “Into the Wild”) are a father/son coroner team assigned to autopsy a beautiful young corpse found at the scene of a harrowing multiple murder. Tommy (Brian Cox) and Austin (Emile Hirsch) Tilden work together at the creepy old Tilden morgue and crematorium in Grantham, Virginia.

Morgues and crematoriums are creepy by definition, but this one is also underground with flickering lights and a storm raging outside. When the pretty young dead girl (Olwen Kelly) is brought in with instructions to make this a “rush” autopsy, young Austin is about ready to leave on a date with his girlfriend Emma (Ophelia Lovibond), but he stays behind to help his father try to determine the COD (cause of death) of the enigmatic female corpse. He begs off on the movie he and his girlfriend were planning on attending, telling her to come pick him up in 2 hours.

THE GOOD

The creepy ramshackle Victorian house morgue/crematorium is practically a character in itself. The fact that it’s also underground and services by a dilapidated elevator is a plus. I haven’t been that affected by a stormy night crematorium scene since the original “Phantasm” in 1979 (and, yes, I know there have been 3 others) which I saw so long ago that it was at a drive-in and there really was a terrific thunder and lightning storm actually going on around  us, which certainly scored a point for realism.

The acting, with pros like Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox, was bound to be good. It’s interesting to note that the part of Tommy Tilden, the father, was originally supposed to have been played by Martin Sheen before scheduling conflicts caused him to be replaced by Cox.

The autopsies and dead bodies were just as scary as you’d expect, and

The music by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans is a good fit for this film and the cinematography by Roman Osnin is appropriately spooky.

THE BAD

Once the full plot is revealed, it doesn’t make much sense. That is too often the case with paranormal or supernaturally-based themes in horror (and I was an active voting member of HWA—the Horror Writers’ Association.)

The only false acting note, for me, was girlfriend Emma (Ophelia Lovibond). Part of that failure to impress can be attributed to the plot itself, which gave her short shrift.

I wanted better explanations for various phenomena depicted in the film, whether crazy radio interruptions, morgue body drawers opening mysteriously on their own, or enigmatic figures glimpsed in parabolic mirrors. But that’s just me (and one reason I moved from HWA to ITW, International Thriller Writers).

Verdict:

Not sure that releasing a creepy autopsy movie 4 days before Christmas is in keeping with that season, but seeing it this close to Halloween was perfect.

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About Connie Wilson

Connie (Corcoran) Wilson (www.ConnieCWilson.com ) was the Quad City Times film and book critic for 15 years and has continued reviewing film uninterruptedly since 1970. She also publishes books (31 at last count) in a variety of genres (www.quadcitieslearning.com), has taught writing or literature classes at 6 Iowa/Illinois colleges or universities as adjunct faculty, was Yahoo's Content Producer of the Year 2008 for Politics, is the author of It Came from the 70s: From The Godfather to Apocalypse Now, and writes on a variety of topics at her own blog, www.WeeklyWilson.com.