The Autopsy of Jane Doe
Updated: Jul 19, 2021
The 250th review!
I don’t think I have enough time to go through all the hurdles and hoops I had to jump through and dodge in order to get that video up yesterday. The process has been long and maddening, but the worst is behind me! Well... I hope it is. To celebrate, after I got off work last night, I came home, had a beer and pizza rolls and watched...
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) - Netflix.
The movie opens with a sheriff, played by Roose Bolton from “Game of Thrones”, trying out a really off-putting southern accent. He’s walking through a house in the aftermath of a family’s bloody demise. There are no signs of forced entry, in fact, it looks like they were trying to get out. Eventually they come across the body of young, naked woman half-buried in the basement. Sheriff Roose Bolton then takes the body to the coroner, played by the wonderful Brian Cox, and his son, Emile Hirsch, to figure out what the hell happened to her.
My freshman year in high school, the day before Thanksgiving break, my Biology teacher had us watch an autopsy. The first half of the movie was a more entertaining version of that, complete with a scene of them pulling the skin over her face. Autopsies are gross, but before anything spooky happens, the movie is incredibly interesting. This woman is dead, her eyes have gone gray, which says she’s been dead for days, but there’s no signs of any trauma on the outside of her body. It’s the exact opposite internally. The more they cut into her, the weirder it gets. Her lungs are completely black, and Cox says, “She could smoke 10 packs a day for 30 years and wouldn’t explain this... This amount of lung damage, though, I'd expect the body to be covered in third degree burns. It's like finding a bullet in a brain, but with no gunshot wound.”
This woman had so much damage on her inside but the outside is pristine. It’s a neat little mystery before anything really happens, except for the death of the cat Stanley, that bummed me out, but I digress. Eventually, as they’re cutting into her weird stuff starts happening. And when it starts happening, the movie doesn’t slow down. It is easily one of the creepiest movies I’ve seen in a long. Eventually they realize they’re trapped in the basement of their mortuary with a force they can’t understand.
It’s not often when I do these reviews that I watch something that’s legitimately scary. It’s a very claustrophobic atmosphere that makes wonderful use of the bad lighting and shadows. There’s also a bit in the beginning, before Sheriff Roose Bolton comes with the body, where the son’s girlfriend is trying to show how brave she is, so Cox plays along. They open one of the drawers with a body in it and she asks why the corpse has a bell on its foot. He explains way-back-when it was hard to tell the difference between death and a deep coma, so they’d tie a bell to the toe, and if it rang, well, they’d let their friend out. It’s a small little “Chekhov’s Gun”, but man, is it effective when it pays off. Hearing that bell in the movie is downright frightening.
Eventually, after a whole lot of spookiness and scary imagery the two are determined to make it to the end and figure out how she died. It’s one of the few times that the wonderful mystery they’ve been weaving has a satisfying conclusion. The movie doesn’t quite stick the landing because horror movies can’t resist the urge, but still it’s pretty great. Although I will say, there’s two really cool reveals at the end, one that made me respond with “Damn”... but with each “damn” meaning something different. Brian Cox is fantastic, the scares are really good and the mystery is great. I tend to enjoy movies where the setting is as much of an enemy as the antagonist. I liked the movie Phone Booth a whole lot more than most.
I’m trying to go light on the details because if you want to watch this movie, it’s best to be like Frank Costanza and go in fresh. I don’t know how it’ll hold up on a rewatch, because a lot of the fun is you have no information these characters don’t. The puzzle unravels for you at the same time as it does for them, luckily for you it’s happening from the comfort of your couch, not while trapped in a small area with a malevolent entity.
I’m trying to go light on the details because if you want to watch this movie, it’s best to be like Frank Costanza and go in fresh.
One of the reasons I started doing this was to find movies that actually scared me, because as I got older, horror films didn’t scare me as much, being desensitized and all that. I knew there were no ghosts waiting for me in the basement, but it’s nice to have that feeling at times, in a controlled environment, when the fears of old are replaced with more real things to be scared about.