After a semester’s worth of horror films, I am confident enough to say that “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” is THE scariest movie that we watched this semester. Although I am not proud of it, while watching this movie I was actually hiding behind my hands and underneath my hoodie to try and escape what was happening in the film. I do not usually watch horror movies to kill time and I would much prefer to watch an action movie or a comedy because I want to avoid feeling the way that I felt while watching this movie…terrified!!!!
When I think of what exactly a movie has to have to consider it a “horror” movie I would say that first of all there has to be a “monster,” it has to have a dark setting or mood to the film (I don’t expect to be in a sunny field with rabbits jumping around when I’m watching a horror film), and someone has to be suffer either physically, psychologically, or emotionally. I think that I checked off all of these boxes when I was watching this film and it even took it a step further as some points in the film by incorporating the occult. The film plays with the characters in a sense that physically Tommy is forced to experience the pain the witch felt, Austin suffers emotional trauma when he ends up killing his own girlfriend Emma and psychologically they both go frantic trying to figure out what is going on.
What made this film scary to me were all the bits and pieces that came with the film through the different approaches that went along with the film: specifically the trope based approach and effect based approach. First of all, the trope based approach shows us that there are various elements that make up a horror movie such as the use of dead bodies, blood, satanic symbols, the occult, and the use of witchcraft. All of these elements set the tone for the movie and really makes you realize (as if you already didn’t realize it from the poster) that you are in for a dark and scary ride. Secondly, through the use of the effect-based approach, the mood is set for us to experience this horror film. The setting was in of all places a morgue, a setting that I would expect when it comes to horror movies especially after all those year of watching “CSI” on television. The setting itself plus the eerie “storm” totally sets the mood for me and got me ready for the film.
Robin Wood’s reading “The American Nightmare: Horror in the 70s” can be applied here as Wood notes that there is a sense of “othering” where an individual is repressed in a way. Wood states “It is the horror film that responds in the most clear-cut and direct way, because central to it is the actual dramatization of the dual concept of the repressed/other, in the figure of the monster.” This is seen through the fact that “Jane Doe” was cast out by her peers for being a witch and was subjected to torture and other atrocities because they deemed her a witch. She was never a monster until these people created her by doing all these acts to her. It wasn’t until she died and was cursed did she finally end up becoming the monster.
I found it fun in a sense that the body mortician ended up suffering all the pain that “Jane Doe” felt as a result of her accusation of being a witch all those centuries ago. I remember the scene that he had with his son when he said, of his deceased wife who committed suicide, “if only we knew the pain she was experiencing” or something along those lines. I found it to be sort of ironic that he wishes that he could experience the pain and suffering that his wife felt so that he could have helped her in saved her, and now here he is literally experiencing the pain and the suffering that “Jane Doe” experienced.
Looking back, although I was scared and wanted to turn away and hide, watching this film was fun. I enjoyed how the story came full circle where in the beginning of the film we are shown a crime scene where a family had been killed and one of the officers said that it looked like they were trying to escape the house rather than someone coming in to kill them. We see at the end of the movie that that in fact is what happened; that Austin and his father Tommy were trying to escape the wrath of this witch but were unsuccessful. Overall it was just a fun experience for me because it really made me appreciate the horror genre and got me excited for the semester ahead. “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” will for surely be one of my recommendations to my friends when they ask me for a movie to watch to get them scared. Usually I wouldn’t really know what to tell them because aside from the Hollywood blockbusters that we all are used to seeing, I wouldn’t know any other films but now, after watching this film, I can add that to my list of go to horror films that no one would have heard about or have seen.