M.L. Miller here! As I go into my tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Seven of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2016 and going through September 30, 2017. I have posted Best of lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Released on December 21, 2017! Available On Demand, digital download, & DVD here from IFC Midnight! Also streaming on Netflix!
THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE (2016)
Directed by André Øvredal
Written by Ian B. Goldberg, Richard Naing
Starring Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Ophelia Lovibond, Michael McElhatton, Parker Sawyers, Jane Perry, Yves O’Hara, & Olwen Catherine Kelly as Jane Doe!
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Andre Øvredal could have done anything with his second feature film after his imaginative and expansive modern found footage fairy tale debut TROLLHUNTER, but instead of going bigger, he reels the scope back in to tell a more claustrophobic and ominous tale with equal potency entitled THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE.
When the body of a woman is found in the basement of a home, the Jane Doe is taken to the local morgue where a father and son team of morticians (Emile Hirsch & Brian Cox) attempt to find out the cause of death and uncover something beyond scientific explanation. With a storm of epic proportions brewing outside and strange occurrences happening in the dark hallways of the morgue, the morticians find out that this is much more than a simple unnamed corpse.
As with TROLLHUNTER, Øvredal chooses to reveal the horror piece by piece in this film which, for the most part, is all about well-timed suspense and thrills rather than fantastical elements like giant man-eating monsters. The first half of THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE is a mystery procedural where the mortician’s rulebook is followed to investigate the cause of death. This is where the compelling detective work comes in as Cox and Hirsch proceed to dissect the corpse and hypothesize what were the events that lead up to her demise. Øvredal is methodical in doling out slivers of info at a torturous pace that kept my attention all the way through. If you’re looking for a movie you cannot predict, this is the one, and most of that is because of Øvredal’s selfish way of leaking information in the first half.
The second half of the film is somewhat more predictable as the supernatural stuff begins. And while I was hooked into this movie by this time, it does seem to lose a skosh of luster as the mystery gives away to more supernatural elements. Still in these scenes, there are terrifying moments where Hirsch and Cox really do go for their all. Cox especially is very physical in this role. I also loved the way the supernatural is something the morticians finally get to and sort of accept by the end of the movie. While some scientist types are seen to be closed minded towards the occult and the supernatural, it’s nice to see these two accept it as unexplained phenomena begin to occur. So when Cox says “Let’s get the hell out of here.” instead of “Let’s investigate this further scientifically” this is a believable moment of realism that you don’t often see in horror films. But this acceptance that there might be supernatural things one cannot explain in the world of this film is foreshadowed early on when Cox’s Tommy admits to being superstitious by tying a bell to the corpses’ ankles just in case they aren’t dead. This little detail also serves as a wonderful setup for a really effective scare later on.
Out of all of the newcomers to horror, Øvredal is one I am most excited about seeing develop as a filmmaker. I hope he sticks around in the world of horror and is able to explore that dark side of fantasy he did so brazenly with TROLLHUNTER and so subtly here with THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE. While there are some conventions that are peppered through the film such as a cat that is just asking to be killed (and sadly is, poor kitty) and the role of Hirsch’s girlfriend which is less of a role and more of a plot device than anything, Øvredal makes up for it with some nail-whitening moments of tension and suspense as well as some fantastically dark moments of sheer terror. He also gets some great performances from Cox and Hirsch who are extremely convincing as father and son morticians.
One thing I could have done without was the weird “Open Up Your Heart (And Let the Sun Shine In)” song used in the film every time something weird is about to occur. This song used to be at the end of some of those old FLINTSTONES cartoons and was featured in one of the episodes where Fred and Barney want to make their kids Pebbles and Bamm Bamm into child stars. I always loved the Flintstones and remember that one to be particularly good. Now, a little research shows this song as being written in 1954 and then rising to popularity when it appeared almost ten years later on that FLINTSTONES episode. While I attest it is a rather creepy song, especially if you listen to the lyrics mentioning the devil numerous times, the evil in THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE is considerably older, so I don’t know why this particular piece of music was used. Odd choice in music aside, THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE is a potent and powerful horror film that utilizes elements of mystery and fantasy in ways to make it totally unique from anything else out there.
THE 2016-2017 COUNTDOWN!
#7 – THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE
#8 – IT CHAPTER ONE
#9 – THE VOID
#10 – SWEET SWEET LONELY GIRL
#11 – SAVAGELAND
#12 – IT COMES AT NIGHT
#13 – THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER
#14 – THE SIMILARS
#15 – HOWL
#16 – SEOUL STATION
#17 – THE TRANSFIGURATION
#18 – THE GREASY STRANGLER
#19 – I AM THE PRETTY THING IN THE HOUSE
#20 – ANNABELLE 2: CREATION
#21 – SPLIT
#22— TRASH FIRE
#23 – 47 METERS DOWN
#24 – HELL HOUSE LLC
#25 – THE SUBLET
#26 – PATCHWORK
#27 – IT STAINS THE SANDS RED
#28 – GERALD’S GAME
#29 – LAKE BODOM
#30 – NIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE
#31 – THE EVIL WITHIN
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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