Set in a simple home in a seemingly small and quaint suburb in the United States, this movie validates reasons why I’ve always found these kinds of eerie towns, and specifically morgues and those that actually have them within their homes so scary. Apart from the fact that you’re surrounded and have to deal with the corpses of the dead, I definitely believe in the present supernatural living among us to an extent – meaning I choose to avoid any given situation that might have myself deal with anything within the lines. Horror movies I can definitely do, but the reality of being engaged in a scary situation with the supernatural? Not quite.
The connection of the father-son relationship of Tommy and Austin is shown to be quite strong as despite the fact that Tommy’s job as a coroner is one that Austin is trying to detach himself from getting dragged into for the long run. Austin clearly respects his father, and he is troubled to completely leave him alone to do this kind of work late at night – especially now that he is a widower. It is seen that Austin struggled with self-conflict when he had to make the decision of literally bringing up a rain check with his girlfriend, Emma, in order to assist his dad on a seemingly difficult autopsy on a newly brought in body identified as “Jane Doe”, which he was going to do alone. Being a movie that was shown in the year 2016, strong relationships such as this one, let alone having millennials choose to actually work these kinds of jobs is quite rare.
As part of the audience, I tend to pick up clues and moments that I feel might foreshadow events that could possibly take place later on in the movie. For example, in the beginning of the movie, when Austin shows Emma the different corpses and explains the reason behind the bell, I already anticipated that these bodies (or at least of them) would somehow come to life hence the initial reference to the bell. Another foreshadowing moment was great attachment to their cat, which eventually died early on as well. Also, the fact that their work place was in the ground floor, with access really limited to the usage of an elevator, already gave me the hint that they would somehow end up being trapped later on in the film. True enough, the drastic weather caused a power shortage which ends up creating more chaos throughout the story.
Director Andre Ovredal kept things simple with the film being shot within the home and majority in that one floor that contained their autopsy room. With that, The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) was also written in a simple way as you are brought into the daily job of this tandem that both seem to be really good at what they do. Their knack for solving how brought in victims die is something you become invested in as well as you watch them carefully gather the different data uncovered and really documenting each part down carefully to the dot. Such a common procedure for them eventually becomes frustrating and confusing as strange supernatural seemingly connections start to unfold as they dig deeper into this case. Both actors play their roles so well – especially Tommy who was played by Brian Cox – that you don’t really feel the minimalism of their scenes and exchange in lines (well written by both Ian B. Goldberg and Richard Naing), as well as the concept of the film; it being a horror one at that. There was still a good mixture of intellect and fear that keeps you glued on watching the film as you learn more about how these serious morticians work and what really happened to this creepy Jane Doe.
If anything, the only thing I felt that lacked was the reasoning behind why this undead corpse was targeting a simple and innocent family like theirs especially since they didn’t seem to have a part in her uncovered suffering. Also, it was quite tragic how the ending of the film had to include the death of both father and son. Another questionable occurrence was the reason behind how Emma was able to access that ground floor despite the shutdown of power and shown struggle for Tommy and Austin to use the elevator as their escape route away from the sudden curse brought about by the supernatural Jane Doe. However, the left open ending as to the possibility that the Jane Doe corpse would strike once again in her next destination was the perfect way to end it. To me, the movie somewhat came in full circle for the director to end it with the last ringing of the bell on her ankle. As if to say, “time to strike again”.