The Autopsy of Jane Doe: darker, nastier and smarter that your average horror

Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox are father-and-son coroners having a very weird night at the morgue

Scared Stiff: Brian Cox, Olwen Kelly and Emile Hirsch in The Autopsy of Jane Doe

Film Title: The Autopsy of Jane Doe

Director: André Øvredal

Starring: Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Ophelia Lovibond, Michael McElhatton, Olwen Kelly, Jane Perry

Genre: Horror

Running Time: 86 min

Thu, Mar 30, 2017, 12:26


A few years ago André Øvredal directed something a little like a horror film. Trollhunters wasn’t terribly frightening (nor was it meant to be), but its mountain-sized absurdity revealed an interesting talent prepared to go to unexpected places.

The director swerves in another direction with this darker, nastier, more economic shocker. Fans of the genre will rejoice in the rare sight of a new kind of threat. They will celebrate further at the director’s success in satisfactorily exploiting a challenging premise.

The monster doesn’t really do anything. She’s already dead. In the recent, too-pleased-with-itself Swiss Army Man, Daniel Radcliffe’s putrid corpse got to fart, gurgle and facilitate sea travel. Olwen Catherine Kelly’s body does none of those things. She lies there and allows herself to be eviscerated while emanations threaten those around. Novelty alone justifies the ticket price.

The film kicks off with an unidentified body – later granted the status of “Jane Doe” – being found in the basement of a suburban house.

The four inhabitants are also dead. There are no signs of forced entry. Indeed, as one copper notes ominously, it looks as if the victims were trying to escape. “Jane” is brought to a morgue run by blackly humorous Brian Cox with the reluctant assistance of his son Emile Hirsch.

The most revolting sections of the film involve things that happen thousands of time a day in hundreds of countries throughout the world. Hirsch and Cox saw through bones and wrap gloved hands around still damp organs. Slowly, the irregularities mount. Somebody has cut out her tongue. Can her brain cells really be alive?

The characterisation is thin, but these two fine actors manage to drape flesh across the bare bones. (Apologies for the on-the-nose metaphor). The film is, however, all about the accumulation of shadowy menace, and Øvredal proves a young master of that art.

It hardly matters that the destination becomes apparent a good half-hour before it is achieved. The journey is so deliciously horrid few will mind. A very worthwhile slice of macabre.