VOD film review: The Autopsy of Jane Doe
James R | On 26, Jun 2017
Director: André Øvredal
Cast: Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch
After the fantastical fun that was Trollhunter, director André Øvredal makes his English language debut with The Autopsy of Jane Doe. His mastery of fear hasn’t been lost in transation – this is genuinely terrifying cinema.
The film follows father-son coroners Tommy (Brian Cox) and Austin (Emile Hirsch) as they slowly unpick a mysterious corpse that has turned up on their doorstep in the middle of the night. Naturally, it turns out to be a bad idea, as things go from mysterious to weird to downright scary – once Jane Doe has entered the building, we never leave.
Set place entirely within the confines of the morgue, Øvredal is in his element – while the leap from Norway is a coming-to-Hollywood of sorts (the film was actually made on a set in Bromley-by-Bow), the constraints of the location are ideal for his knack for crafting low-key tension. The camera hurtles down corridors, lurks around corners, zooms in on Doe’s eerily blank features, a carefullly planned out tour de force of supsense. After the free-wheeling realism of the improvised Trollhunter, the Nordic helmer choreographs scares with a devilish wit and an unerring precision.
The script is just as fantastically taut, carefully paced enough by Ian Goldberg and Richard Naing to wind up on 2013 Black List. It makes sure that Jane Doe drives every progression in the plot; with each new cut, our duo uncover yet another medical impossibility, as her innards seem tortured but her exterior remains flawless.
Throughout, Cox and Hirsch sell their morbid relationship, with Ophelia Lovibond always excellent as Austin’s girlfriend, waiting in the wings for him to carve out time from his work schedule for her. But Øvredal is the real star here, steadily ramping up the pacing so that by the time the final act arrives, you’ll be too gripped not to go with it. Simple, efficent and spooky, this stripped-down bundle of scares is a superb calling card for a filmmaker who can make you petrified in any language.