In the horror genre, simplicity is often valued. In many cases, the narrative’s effectiveness can be greatly improved by taking a “less is more” approach and letting the terror do the heavy lifting. For instance, have a look at The Autopsy of Jane Doe.
One of the more disturbing entries in contemporary horror is a chamber piece drenched in atmosphere and offering few explanations. This disturbing tale of familial duty, grief, and trauma-induced wrath is made all the more effective by the simplicity of the setting and the narrative, which allow the characters and scares to shine.
The careful and insidious way in which director André vredal trains the audience to acquire a triggering anxiety response to a sound that would be benign in any other setting elevates this intimate drama to the level of something truly amazing.
Spoilers for The Autopsy of Jane Doe are included in this post.
Authorities in a small town transport the remains of a Jane Doe who was found at the scene of many murders to the mortuary there to try to identify how she died. The routine nightly shift for coroner father-and-son team Tommy (Brian Cox) and Austin (Emile Hirsch) becomes perilous as they try to determine the cause of Jane Doe’s death in the absence of any obvious trauma.
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As they learn more of her past, strange things start to happen in their mortuary. It becomes obvious that some information is better remained hidden for the time being.
The Autopsy Of Jane Doe: Story
Emma (Ophelia Lovibond), Austin’s girlfriend, shows up at the mortuary to pick him up for their evening out. Austin and Tommy show Emma their office in the basement of the family house before the sheriff (Michael McElhatton) and Jane Doe (Olwen Kelly) arrive.
Austin’s guilt is triggered by Emma‘s demands for answers by morning, so he cancels their date to help his dad with the autopsy of Jane Doe instead, though he still plans to see her later that night. Autopsies like this one puzzle even the most seasoned of coroners almost instantly.
Although Jane Doe appears unharmed on the outside, a closer examination reveals that she has been severely injured and disfigured. While a terrifying storm rages beyond the morgue’s walls, the investigators face increasing otherworldly horror as they uncover increasingly odd symptoms and clues.
Everything starts to go haywire: the radio gets a personality of its own, Tommy’s cat is found fatally injured in the vents, the power goes out, and the stored corpses start acting like they have minds of their own.
The father and son realise that Jane Doe is to blame for all of their problems, so they plan to burn her to death in the examination room. In an effort to prevent the blaze from spreading, Tommy extinguishes it, only to find that Jane Doe was spared. They pack up their belongings and run away.
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