The Autopsy of Jane Doe is the best movie I’ve seen in 2017. Granted, so far I’ve only watched three movies, but this one will be hard to beat. The title describes the plot as a father-and-son coroner team tries to discover what killed Jane Doe, found half-buried at a crime scene. Austin and Tommy Tilden are finishing up work for the day when the sheriff wheels Jane in and tells them he needs a cause-of-death, ASAP. Austin (the son) cancels a date to help his dad out.
It’s a good thing he does because Jane presents quite the puzzle. She has a substance under her fingernails (peat) not native to the area, an artificially elongated waist and her body has been subjected to all sorts of abuse that can’t be seen on the surface. Performed in a creepy basement that went out of style in the early 50’s, the autopsy starts out weird – with an insect flying out of Jane’s nose – and descends into delirium by degrees. As Austin and Tommy delve deeper, the radio starts playing bizarre songs, the family cat meets an unfortunate fate and morgue drawers slide open, discharging their occupants.
Please note that there is an autopsy in The Autopsy of Jane Doe, so squeamish folks should take care. There are lots of jump scares, including a creepy rendition of Let the Sun Shine In, but the autopsy – horrible, yet mundane – is unsettling enough on its own and takes center stage. It’s only at the end that The Autopsy of Jane Doe becomes more of a conventional horror movie.
I must confess that I spent most of The Autopsy of Jane Doe waiting for the titular character to move or sit up. Upon rewatching the movie I saw and heard details I didn’t notice on the first viewing. Without resorting to spoilers, I’d suggest paying attention to the camera’s gaze, because the director conveys what is happening there.