An unknown corpse of a young woman, found naked and half-buried in the basement of a home involved in a gruesome crime scene, is strolled into a small town family morgue and crematorium by a puzzled local sheriff. Without any idea who this woman is and how to explain the her presence at the scene, the sheriff wants a cause of death on his Jane Doe as soon as possible and it’s up to Tommy and his son, Austin, to investigate what caused her demise and to determine her involvement in the grand scheme of the grisly events. When the medical examiners begin to peel back the layers, each segment of the autopsy reveals impossible and unspeakable horrors underneath her cold flesh that go against their combined years of medical experience and the deeper they dig into her body, the more the autopsy room becomes a spine-tingling area as strange occurrences begin to happen to the father and son. Their only hope in stopping the ominous terrorizing presence and surviving the hell-bent stormy night is to continue the examination in order to unravel the enigma that surrounds Jane Doe.
“Troll Hunter” director André Øvredal helms a contemporary horror masterpiece with the Americana horror film,”The Autopsy of Jane Doe, that can be described as American folklore lit ablaze with modern day macabre that plays like a gruesome adult version of the children’s game Operation. Øvredal pulls inspiration from present day classical horror, including such films as the widely popular James Wan franchise, “The Conjuring,” by not embarking on an overkill journey of heavy duty effects or relying on gallons upon gallons of fake blood to sell his film. Instead, André Øvredal’s “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” is patient, subtle, and massively creepy, utilizing the dated morgue and crematorium basement setting to construct a dreadful, despairing dungeon atmosphere and focus on being very particular with every scene having a function to take advantage of the overwhelming brooding aurora and pop scare moments that can scare the pants off a mannequin. Øvredal heightens moments of complete pin-drop silence to amplify the terror and plays with camera angles that linger longer to leave an unsettling residue pooled in a spine-tingled soul.
Not only is the Ian Goldberg and Richard Naing script palm-sweaty frightening, tack on A-list actors like Brian Cox (“Manhunter”) and Emile Hirsch (“Killer Joe”) as a father and son team pitted against a dead body and “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” jumps up by tenfold as a must-see. Brian Cox is masterful as the widowed mortician whose numb to the pain of life and shock of work, making him a dedicated professional at uncovering the truth inside corpses, and he’s well companioned with Emile Hirsch, the mortician’s eagerly loving son and apprentice to the family business. The only problem is Austin doesn’t want to be a part of the family legacy, but is rooted by his continuously cloaked grieving father and you can see the struggle in Hirsch’s wish-washy character. The pair of veteran actors play off each other well being a medical super duo by conducting examination procedures and digging right into the corpse of dead, disfigured bodies like it’s just another day at the office. The gorgeous Olwen Catherine Kelly is dead on being a dead body. Though Kelly literally doesn’t move an inch for the entire runtime, her slim frame and blank facial expressions are truly haunting, if not also alluring to behold.
Immediately, my first impression of André Øvredal’s film had me stroll back to the past, nearly a decade a go to 2008, with the Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel thriller “Deadgirl.” The premise of the film told the story of two high school aged boys discovering a seemingly near dead young woman in an abandoned asylum; the dead girl being played by Jenny Spain. Whereas each film have their separate horrific identities, their end games bare supernatural similarities. What also separates André Øvredal’s film from Sarmiento and Harel’s “Deadgirl” are the two protagonists; instead of two teen boys pulling hormonal hijinks on a motionless attractive female body, Tommy and Austin are strictly professional, focused on their task to answer the riddle lying inside the very fabric and bones of Jane Doe. The only gripe I can bottom barrel scrape out is how Tommy and Austin had this big ‘what if’ epiphany that becomes the very basis of the entire film and, in my opinion, felt that scene was extremely chintzy and a cop out.
Lionsgate Home Entertainment delivers “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” from production companies 42, Impostor Pictures, and IM Global onto UK DVD and Blu-ray. Unfortunately, a DVD-R screener was sent to me, resulting in no true examination of the audio and video qualities and the only extra on the disc was a Q&A with directorAndré Øvredal. Even if viewers might be able to guess the nature of the corpse – I did about halfway through – “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” is still way ahead of it’s genre brethren in being the best horror film of 2017 with an unlimited amount of sinister wretchedness that tugs at your soul strings and weighs heavy in your mind’s cache as soon as the lights go out for bedtime. I would recommend this title to anyone seeking an unadulterated horror experience.
About damn time a way of learning your ABCs by the teaches of death! The ABCs of Death brings together 26 international directors to direct, at their own artistic freedom, their each short film segment. Each director was given a letter and were told to choose a word to title their work with and create a story around that word. The individual segments are not your typical horror thrillers about death and what I mean by that is that you don’t have a vampire segment, a slasher segment, etc. Death can come in any way, shape, or form and is certainly explored every single way in this fatal anthology.
I’d like to start off with my favorite segment which is entitled “D is for Dogfight” directed by Marcel Sarmiento, who you might remember from his direction work on Deadgirl and it’s been a little bit since that project! “D is for Dogfight” simply pits a man versus a vicious dog in an underground “fight club” style face-off. The short film is shot nearly without dialogue and the twist ending will leave you more with a sinister grin rather than a shock on your face. The man versus dog fight is excellent when done in slow motion with every dog punch and every bite to the arm or leg just as real as you would see on any animal attack video on RealTV.
The worst videos have to come from the Japanese, especially the one entitled “F is for Farts” directed by Noboru Iguchi. Iguchi did Machine Girl which is ultra-violet and just brutally stupid in a good way, but then Iguchi followed up later on with Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead and, well, yeah. By The ABCs of Death title alone, you can tell he hasn’t expanded his horizon’s much further. The whole episode, which lasts no more than four or five minutes, is about stinky, women farts. The comedy element I get, but the death part I do not and nor will I ever. Maybe I’m just not Japanese educated enough to learn the history behind Japan’s wackiness.
There are other really cool segments (Timo’s Tjahjanto’s “L is for Libido”) and other silly toilet humor death segments (Anders Morgenthaler’s “K is for Klutz”). This anthology is unique because you get a taste of everything, of every culture, of every opinion with no restraint and with no influence. Creativity is boundless and that is what is more outstanding here than most of the segments and you won’t get bored which is great! I can’t wait for The ABCs of Death 2 and the anticipation is killing me – wait – that should be in the sequel – “A is for Anticipation.”
The ABCs of Death is distributed by Magnolia Home Entertainment.