First impressions last a life time. Whether it be good or bad, our first impressions of people, events, or even movies can drive our thoughts to inescapable biases. This could be said about the film, The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016). Classified as a Horror film by imdb and based from its numerous trailers, it was quite obvious that the film would be a scary one and right of the bat when the film started we immediately witnessed a horrific scene which cements this film as a horror film. Having the movie start with lots of blood, dead bodies, and an unidentifiable body found in the basement is a pretty good indication that this film would be a bit dark and more is yet to come.
Lo and behold the following scenes were testaments to showcase the horrors of this film. The entire setting of the movie is just asking for something scary to happen. The fact that majority of the film was located in a morgue, an underground morgue for that matter, where death is a constant in this location, highly suggests numerous opportunities to scare and horrify the audience.
My impression of the film is quite similar to what the director wanted to convey to the audience. I found the film creepy, a bit scary, and unsettling in some scenes. Maybe because it is a modern film, but I personally get more scared by modern films than the older types of films because for me modern films goal is to visibly scare you where as older films try to psyche you out to the point of scaring you in the end. What surprises me the most with The Autopsy of Jane Doe is the fact that the main Monster, Jane Doe herself, didn’t even have to do anything to convey fear amongst the Tildens, but caused indescribable horror throughout the entire film. The fact that an dead character can be the main monster in the film without even moving the entire film is the scariest part of the film.
While watching the film, what surprised me the most was the reveal of what Jane Doe was and her connection to the Salem Witch Trials. It caught me by surprise cause common horror films would connect the happenings done by Jane Doe to ghosts or paranormal activities, but seeing that it was related to witchcraft was something completely unexpected.
Robin Wood’s article, The American Nightmare: Horror in the 70s, brings into light a topic about the horror genre that normal viewers may not really know about but drastically brings into perspective the significance of horror movies and their plots. According to Wood, the horror genre is all about the difficulty or the struggle of the reemergence of things that are repressed, oppressed, or considered Other by society. The act of reemerging may be considered to be the scary or horrifying aspect of the movie as the repressed Other manifests itself in the form of a monster. “One might say that the true subject of the horror genre is the struggle for recognition of all that our civilization represses or oppresses, its reemergence dramatized, as in our nightmares, as an object of horror, a matter for terror, and the happy ending (when it exists) typically signifying the restoration of repression.” (Wood, 1986)
The Other is classified as something casted-away or rejected by a person, a part of someone, or even by society. People then outcast this Other to only deny any part of it being real or even ever existing.
In the film, the Other can be seen in particular to the othering of women. Women in the past wanted to push themselves to know more and to be more so they decided to pursue things that are aren’t considered to be part of the norm. The society back then wanted to repress this form of thinking and even punished those who defied them, leading to the Salem Witch Trials. And just like what Wood mentioned, the repressed will reemerge leading to the haunting of Jane Doe after being constantly tortured and used.
I found that the film was not only a good horror film but, weirdly, quite relevant to us today. The Othering can be considered to be applicable to our society today. We all have our ideas, cultures, and wants/dreams, but there are times wherein we are often shut down, neglected, or even repressed for having them. This causes us to be tortured, bullied, shamed, or even ignored by society. It brings into perspective the kind of world we currently live in and what our society can do to our own personal well-being. It is quite shocking to have picked-up this realization from a Horror film but nevertheless the impact of the Other is quite relevant to real world events and has made The Autopsy of Jane Doe a one of a kind film.
Robin Wood, ‘The American Nightmare: Horror in the 70s’, from Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan (New York, Columbia University Press, 1986)