26 June 2017



'Some things you can't unsee...'

I wonder if this is the first, or only, film ever to hire an actress to play a corpse that is present on-screen for most of the movie? Plenty of corpses appear in movies, sure, but very few ever get to take centre-stage for such a long time the way Jane Doe does.

Olwen Kelly does a great job of playing the titular stiff here, the body of the unknown woman who is taken to the Tilden Morgue and Crematorium for an urgent autopsy after she's found buried in earth at a seemingly unrelated crime scene.

Apparently, Ms. Kelly's knowledge of yoga was what got her the gig as the corpse in the first place, as her ability to control her breathing and her body was a crucial deciding factor for the film-makers. She does a wonderful job of lying perfectly still for the entire film. I don't know how she manages it.

I had an ECG done on my neck before Christmas, you know the thing where they shove your upper half into a tube thing while your legs remain sticking out. I fidgeted so much inside the tube that I ruined the photos and I had to come back and have the ECG re-done another day, which was a pain in the arse I could have done without. My point here is that it's damned hard to lie perfectly still for hours, or even minutes, on end. Olwen Kelly does it beautifully.

Anyway, the two morticians given the rush-job of autopsy-ing Jane Doe, so-called because no-one knows who she is, are father-and-son team Tommy and Austin Tilden. You kill 'em, we grill 'em! ought to be their motto because they cremate bodies on their premises as well as looking for their COD or 'cause of death.'

Brian Cox, playing Tommy the Dad here, is no stranger to the world of horror cinema as he portrayed the first (and some say the best- not me, I love Anthony Hopkins!) ever Hannibal Lector in the movie MANHUNTER. He's pretty old in this, playing a man who's tragically lost his wife to suicide and has subsequently kind of lost his own way a bit as well.

Emile Hirsch as the son Austin is quite bland. I didn't really detect a lot of emotion radiating from him but I'm sure that some women will find his boyish good looks appealing. Austin has an annoyingly clingy and vacuous girlfriend called Emma, whose macabre desire to ogle the icky corpses in her boyfriend's morgue is actually essential to the plot, believe it or not.

Anyway, the stuff that the two lads find when they start cutting up the beautiful and impassive Jane Doe is so extraordinary that they soon start to feel that they've uncovered something that's much, much bigger than they can handle. It's the middle of the night and they're alone, quite alone, with her corpse. 

This feeling of impending doom is very much compounded when an unexpected thunderstorm knocks off all their lights and the corpses in the drawers all start to get up and walk around, which I'm sure you'll agree is kind of out of character for stiffs. I won't be able to hear a bell ringing now for quite a while without getting the willies big-time. Ting-a-ling-a-ling...

It's so funny the way that, every time the father-and-son team take something new and strange out of Jane's insides, their eyes bug out and you know that they're about to make yet another solemn pronouncement regarding her physical condition, something like:

'This shouldn't be, this kind of thickening/blackening/charring/scarring/clouding/coating only ever occurs in much newer/fresher/older/heavier/lighter/deader corpses, this can't be happening!' Yes, there are certainly a lot of irregular features in this case, but they're not Jane's, that's for sure. Jane's features are picture-perfect and positively band-box fresh, haha. That's kind of where the mystery lies, in fact...

So who exactly is Jane Doe, or what is she, which might be more to the point? The weird supernatural stuff only started happening when she showed up. Tilden's Morgue And Crematorium was a perfectly respectable establishment before Jane Doe was wheeled into their autopsy suite with her perfect hair and her perfect face and her surprisingly nice tits and the bit of dark-coloured cloth or plastic or whatever it's meant to be that's covering her fanny. Fanny means something different in Ireland to what it means in 'Murica, by the way...

There are definitely one or two spooky moments in the film and I absolutely loved where they were going with the idea but I felt disappointed by the ending. I felt like it didn't live up to the film's initial promise. But whatever, that's just my own personal opinion and someone else may of course feel differently about it. 

The film's had a load of great reviews and even the Undisputed King Of Horror, Stephen King, has given it his royal seal of approval or thumbs-up, so there you go. You can't really say fairer than that, can you?

If nothing else, you get to see really nice tits on-screen for, like, ninety-odd minutes and, if you like to see people's insides being cut up as well, there's enough of that in this film to satisfy even the most gruesome and demanding of gore-hunters.

Personally, I don't think that I'd ever be able to stay upright during an autopsy. I'm not surprised that junior doctors often pass out the first time they see someone's brain or rib-cage being sliced open for realsies.

In this film, Tommy asks the son to 'pass over the rib-cutters' and that made my stomach turn over ever so slightly. I always look away when they start sawing into the skull with the thing that looks like a pizza-cutter-upper. It's not my thing at all. Each to their own, I always say. I also always say a hearty: Eeuw...

THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE is available to buy from LIONSGATE, in conjunction with FETCH PUBLICITY, right now. Here are the finer details:
ON EST: 19TH JUNE, 2017.
Visceral horror to rival Alien and early Cronenberg. Watch it, but not alone.” Stephen King
A fun, stylish, beautifully built funhouse of horror!” Guillermo Del Toro

Key talent:
Brian Cox (Manhunter, Braveheart, RED, The Escapist, Churchill)
Emile Hirsch (Killer Joe, Speedracer, Into The Wild, Lone Survivor)
Ophelia Lovibond (Guardians of the Galaxy, Nowhere Boy, Man Up)
Michael McElhatton (Game of Thrones, The Hallow)
Olwen Kelly as Jane Doe
André Øvredal (Director Trollhunter, Mortal)
Fred Berger (Producer LA LA LAND)

Bonus Features
Q&A with Director André Øvredal on DVD and Blu-ray formats.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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