Combustible Celluloid
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With: Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Ophelia Lovibond, Michael McElhatton, Olwen Catherine Kelly, Parker Sawyers, Jane Perry
Written by: Ian B. Goldberg, Richard Naing
Directed by: André Øvredal
MPAA Rating: R for bloody horror violence, unsettling grisly images, graphic nudity, and language
Running Time: 99
Date: 12/21/2016

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Faith No Morgue

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Norwegian director Andre Ovredal follows up his terrific Trollhunter with an equally smart and satisfying chiller; it's a fun, spooky movie driven by interesting characters in an interesting setting.

In The Autopsy of Jane Doe, As police investigate a gruesome Virginia crime scene, they discover the seemingly untouched corpse of a woman, buried in the basement. The body is taken to father and son coroners Tommy (Brian Cox) and Austin Tilden (Emile Hirsch). Austin has planned to go out to a movie with his girlfriend, Emma (Ophelia Lovibond), but decides to stay and help his dad, hoping to make it up to her later.

As they begin to examine the body, they discover strange things, such as broken ankles and wrists with no indication of external damage. As they probe further, even stranger things begin happening, such as lights flickering out, and a terrible rainstorm trapping them inside the building. Can the Tildens discover the truth about Jane Doe before it's too late?

After its gory crime-scene opener, The Autopsy of Jane Doe spends the entire movie inside the morgue, the Tilden family business for three generations, which has expanded into a moody, sprawling, underground chamber accessible only by a creaky elevator and a storm door.

This setting is the perfect place for scary things to happen, but it's also perfect to see the father-son relationship between Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch, father trying to teach his son important lessons, and son trying to connect with father on an emotional level. Ovredal's storytelling is sharp and coy, with beautiful, exploratory camerawork and clever editing; even though Trollhunter was a "found-footage" movie, there's no hint of shaky-cam or quick-cutting here.

Credit also goes to actress Olwen Kelly, who plays the "Jane Doe," expressing a kind of mystery and personality without ever uttering a word or making a move.

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