THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE **** UK / USA 2016 Dir: Andre Ovredal. 88 mins
The “Jane Doe” (Olwen Kelly) in TROLL HUNTER director Ovredal’s stripped-down, intense chiller is a cadaver discovered at a multiple-murder scene with no apparent connection to the other victims. Father-son coroners Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch have the unenviable task of determining a cause of death over the course of a single, increasingly sinister night: unsettling anomalies include inexplicable internal injuries, a swallowed, extracted tooth and an estimated time of death inconsistent with her physical state.
Almost never leaving the confines of the building and largely a three hander (with Kelly somehow conveying a powerful presence without seemingly doing anything), the film cannily exploits audience discomfort at lingering forensic detail. Highly effective sound design and carefully used visceral details create an unease akin to a protracted variation of the unforgettable autopsy in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Without resorting to cliché or cheap shots (there’s a clever subversion of the usual cat scare), Ovredal conveys a growing sense of a monumental, mysterious force at work while realising that less is more: genuine chills are invoked from seemingly “small” details such as an open morgue drawer or a persistent, tinkling bell. Cox and Hirsch are both terrific, bringing an essential human core to a movie that knows how to scare its audience but never insults their intelligence.
Review by Steven West