DIR: André Øvredal | Cast: Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch, Ophelia Lovibond | Horror | 99min
Intrigue and mystery give way to shlocky horror and gore in André Øvredal’s high-concept follow-up to his quirky and inventive Trollhunter, a mockumentary foray into Norway’s folklore and one of the highlights of London’s First Nordic Film Festival back in 2012.
Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch are cast as father and son forensic pathologists tasked with discovering the cause of death a mysterious Jane Doe who bears extensive internal injuries despite being her corpse pristine as a pin on the outside. Rather like a Patricia Cornwell paperback or an episode of CSI, JANE DOE offers a procedural autopsy of a body discovered at a traumatic murder scene where all the other victims have been savagely brutalised. Coroners are not supposed to inquire about how their cases died, that is a matter for the police and the detectives. But Jane Doe’s cause of death gives the doctors much food for thought, as well as spurting blood and active brain tissue, that seems to fly in the face of reason, questioning whether Miss Doe is indeed dead after all.
The backstory here is that Tommy (Cox) has thrown himself relentlessly into his work since the death of his cheerful wife Rae, two years previously. Austen (Hirsh) is not so keen on becoming a coroner but feels duty bound to his father and their relationship is becoming more distant since the arrival of a love interest for Austen in the shape of Ophelia Lovibond’s Emma. Initially JANE DOE provides some moments of tension as Cox and Hirsh probe question what seems like an sinister case of New English witchcraft and a corpse that appear ‘undead’. But the autopsy soon descends into a blood bath – quite literally – as the mortuary cat is found butchered to death and blood seeps from zip-locked bags in the cold storage. Meanwhile, the radio announces a gale force storm warnings advising listeners to batten down the hatches and stay home. The usual horror tropes are rolled out attempting to scare us (jumpcuts, screeches and slamming doors) but Goldberg and Naing’s script is more a case of initial fascination dissolving into disappointment, rather than slowly mounting terror. If you’re looking for a straightforward gore fest then THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE is likely go down a treat, for others it’s a missed opportunity to delve into the occult. MT
OUT ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 31 MARCH 2017