When we were told that the movie that will replace Ginger Snaps was The Autopsy of Jane Doe, I was both excited and terrified at the same time. I first heard about this movie when I saw a preview of it on Facebook. A Facebook friend shared the trailer of the film and I watched it, curious as to what the movie was about. The trailer was a masterpiece in itself because it featured some of the haunting scenes in the film and its musical score also gave a chilling effect. But I never got to watch the movie in the cinemas because during the time of its release, I was too scared to watch it on the big screen.
Watching it in class was pretty thrilling. I already had an idea about what would happen in the film because I had already watched the trailer, but when the movie opened with the crime scene that was also featured at the start of the trailer, I was already hooked and wondering how the mystery surrounding Jane Doe’s body would unfold.
We are then introduced to Austin and his dad, Tommy, who are coroners. Even then, I was already kind of nervous because of how confined they were working inside the morgue. Much like Triangle, the film only had one setting, and it was in their house where the morgue was also located. There is a sense of entrapment and isolation in the Tildens’ compound and it makes getting out and crying for help all the more difficult. It is as if the Tildens are isolated from the world outside or the “real world”.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe was directed by Andre Ovredal. This is Ovredal’s first film in the English language. The film was marketed as a horror film.
In his article, Robin Wood talked about repression and related this to the concept of “the Other”. The Other’s psychoanalytic significance “resides in the fact that functions not simply as something external to the culture of to the self, but also as what is repressed…in the self and projected outward in order to be hated and disowned”. In the movie, Jane Doe was treated as the Other and we will come to know this when she is revealed to have been a witch. The torture methods she was had to experience led her to seek revenge on those who caused her pain and suffering. Wood also mentioned how the process of the Othering is dangerous. This is related to seeing and regarding these people who are “Othered” as outcasts, as people who do not fit in society. Relating this to today’s times, people who we might consider as the Other are those who belong to the minority, the marginalized, the weak. In the movie, the Other was the woman, Jane Doe. The process of Othering is dangerous as it puts some people on a pedestal, and at the same time, it pushes other people to the ground. There was also a role reversal of the dominant and the Other when the torture methods that Jane Doe had to experience were passed on to the Tildens.
The ending made me feel very disheartened because I was actually rooting for the characters to survive. I especially loved the character of Tommy because he was so likable, even if he was too traditional and by-the-book. You can really see how he loves his son and they even shared an intimate father-son moment when they were stuck in the elevator. Austin also loves his father because he had to ditch his date with his girlfriend Emma just so he could stay at the morgue and work on the Jane Doe case with his dad. Tommy’s sacrifice was very noble because he believed that in sacrificing his life and his body, the witch would not choose to harm Austin. However, (and this is the part that really annoyed me because COME ON, WHY???) as Austin tries to escape, he encounters a hallucination in the form of Tommy. Startled, he fell back over the stairs and died. After watching Triangle the week before, I came to accept the fact that most horror movies do not have happy endings. However, because of the close relationship between the two main characters, there was still a part of me that wanted them to survive that chaotic night at the morgue. Well, you can’t always get what you want.
I liked The Autopsy of Jane Doe because it was fun to watch. I liked it not only because of the jump scares but also because of the bond of the two main characters that made them likable. Overall, it is a movie that effectively shows the concept of “the Other” and the effects of the process of “Othering”. As Robin Wood mentioned, it is a dangerous process and I think Jane Doe’s wrath showed that succinctly.
Robin Wood, ‘The American Nightmare: Horror in the 70s’, from Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan (New York, Columbia University Press, 1986)