Dissecting the Autopsy


The first thing I did after watching the film, which was before the second semester, is to search the name of the actress played by “Jane Doe”  and reassure myself with the fact that they had hired a model to play the corpse in the film. I was so bothered by how beautiful she looked, just laying there and wondered as well how much she got paid by lying down on a table for hours. Haha

Getting to the details however, André Øvredal is brilliant as the film was stuck in my mind for the rest of the night, sending shivers down my spine each time my dog’s bell on his collar rang as he approached me. I think the story is pretty straightforward as it was easy to follow and predict the events as the story progressed. I particularly enjoy the soundtracks of horror films so it was interesting to hear that they made use of a song similar to the one used in the first Insidious film. It gave a lasting effect on the viewers as the song was played in a very grainy manner, like it was being played on a record player. I wondered however, if the main purpose of the girlfriend in the film was only to place guilt on Austin and Tommy. She didn’t have much depth to her character. Moving on, I really appreciate how particularly detailed the film was despite the setting being  limited.

Since the woman in the film referred to as Jane Doe had inexplainable circumstances, we understand that she is what Robin Wood would refer to as “the other.” Having no visible cause of death, they wondered just how on earth a woman might have turned up underneath the house of an old couple who seemed to be trying to bury the unscathed woman. As the story progressed, it is revealed to the audience that the woman was one of the victims of the Salem witch trials, after much scrutiny from the two coroners. The Salem witch trials is one of the most dreaded topics in the world since a lot of women who were thought to be witches were mercilessly tortured by baseless accusations. As shown in the examination, we see that her joints were shattered and her tongue, cut. One of the questions at the back of my mind once the coroners had uncovered the scroll inside her body was if the curse of the witch could be reversed somehow using that marked cloth. I thought that maybe it they could have done something to the inscriptions to stop the witch’s curse and bury her properly or give the factual investigation on her case. What we found at the very end however, was that even when the father had offered himself in her place, his son still paid the price for the injustices done to her after the trials. The father had said when her identity was revealed that what gave her the motive to torture her victims; what gave her the power to mutilate others was probably acquired by the torturous ordeals she had gone through in her lifetime.

What terrified me most about the film was not that an invisible force could break the limbs of an old man but the fact that the body that they were carefully cutting open, inspecting, and feeling through was alive all this time. I can only imagine what kind of things the woman was thinking about, or plotting as the autopsy progressed. It terrified me that she was just laying there, unmoving, and yet capable of possessing the rest of the bodies in the morgue, making a small army of the undead. I liked this spin because I personally am not a huge fan of zombie movies and this is a good take on it. The traditional use of the bell for the dead was a great touch to the whole creepiness of the film, even at the very last scene. Although I did wonder once more, how does she pick her victim? Is it only those who mutilate her body? Was the driver of the van next? What happens to the rest of the bodies she possessed?

All in all, the film was exciting and interesting, especially since I had seen the film with my sister, who was in the medical field. She enjoyed explaining the dissecting scenes to me but it bothered me that I felt that my reactions to the film was delayed. She seemed to be shocked about the microscope scene before I even comprehended it because she had recognized that specimen suggested that the woman was still very much alive.

Robin Wood, “The American Nightmare: Horror in the 70s.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002).


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