The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

*. Damn. I was really getting into this. Then it tailed off. Not that the ending was terrible, but it just didn’t live up to all the promise of the set-up. It still ends up being a good little picture though.
*. I love the setting of the basement morgue, and the father-son mortician team. A limited set and a limited cast (we only leave the basement a couple of times, and only meet a handful of other characters, not counting Jane). It’s like an underground Lifeboat, a constrained premise engineered for its potential to produce taut suspense.
*. I also love the way the gradual unwrapping and digging into Jane Doe plays out like a detective story, taking a whole tradition of forensic cop shows going back to Quincy in an interesting new direction.
*. And finally I really like the cast. Emile Hirsch fits naturally into his part, projecting awkwardness, but does this movie work without Brian Cox? Not half as well. It really needs someone like him to pull off the Father Karras routine at the end, and throughout the rest of the film he lends a weight that steers the proceedings away from being just another teen horror flick.

*. When watching a tight little film like this you have to pay attention to all the little details and things in the script that happen early on because you know they’re coming back. Those convex mirrors (not as effectively used as in the elevator scene in Dressed to Kill, but OK), the bell on the toe of the corpse, the elevator, the girlfriend who says she’s coming back.
*. What happens to the girlfriend is surprising because it happens, not for how it happens. There’s a strand of contemporary horror (it comes out of horror fiction starting a while back) that plays around a lot with characters’ altered mental states. I have to say this doesn’t appeal to me at all. It seems a cop out and not terribly interesting when we discover that what someone is seeing isn’t really happening or isn’t really there. And if Jane Doe has this kind of power why does she even bother with anything else? She can just do the whole thing as a hallucination and then let her victims kill themselves.
*. I wonder what was going on with the subtitles on the DVD. As I’ve mentioned several times here, I like to watch movies with subtitles on because I have a hard time making out all the dialogue. For this one though there were a lot of places where the subtitles didn’t have any connection at all to what was being said. Somebody screwed up.
*. As I began by saying, it tails off from a promising start. I was expecting some twists or at least something really clever going on, but it turns out to be a pretty simple story, with all the usual scary situations people find themselves getting into in such movies. Director André Øvredal seems to know what he’s doing, but I didn’t see anything beyond competence with the material. It’s also pretty downbeat, but again that’s not surprising. Not surprising, but I was hoping for something more than that.

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