Horrortoberfest 2019 – Day 1: The Autopsy of Jane Doe

Another October is here and that means it’s time for another installment of Horrortoberfest; 31 horror movies in 31 days. Starting off this year with a movie that was recommended to me when I mentioned starting up the horror watching soon. I had never heard of it but I’m always down to give something recommended to me a try. Also, it has Brian Cox in it and I love whenever he shows up in horror films. I can honestly say that this movie pleasantly surprised me and defied a lot of expectations I had going in.

The movie follows a father/son team that run a family morgue and crematorium. When a Jane Doe shows up at a crime scene, seemingly unrelated to the deaths that occured; she is sent to the morgue so they can find a cause of death. When they attempt to autopsy the body, things begin to seem strange and nothing adds up. Broken bones with no signs of bruising. Scarred organs but no stab wounds. In trying to unravel this mystery, they instead stumble into a supernatural evil.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe does many things well but chief among them is the use of building tension and unease that is allowed to sit without being driven by jump scares. The movie uses the expectations you have going in to a horror movie that make you immediately suspicious of any dead body. It masterfully lingers on scenes and shots where other movies might have something jump out but instead it lets you stew in the moment without the tension relief that a traditional scare might otherwise have provided. This isn’t to say that there aren’t startling moments but that it doesn’t feel like the movie is putting them in there on some kind of time table. “Welp, it’s been 10 minutes. We need to put another scare in here.”

Spoilers ahead: The choice to let the body be a body throughout the whole film is, I think, one of the best things it does. You continuously expect it to do something, anything. Rise from the table, grab at someone, or anything that would otherwise be expected. There are several parallels to another Brian Cox movie you can make, namely The Ring. Both are these tales where a girl wants to make people feel the pain she felt and both are ambiguously innocent seeming. There is no proof that Jane Doe was or wasn’t a witch. All we have is the fact that she was believed to be and was ritualistically tortured as such. While some of the witch stuff falls a little flat at the end and the use of “Let the Sun Shine In” as creepy song isn’t exactly inspired, those are mostly little nitpicks for an otherwise very well done movie.

 

Score: 4.5 out of 5. I enjoyed this far more than I thought I would and feel like all of the pieces really hang together to make an unnerving and spooky film. Definitely recommend giving this a watch if you can. Only loses a half point because the ending felt a little weak and we could have used slightly more info.

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