The Autopsy of Jane Doe’ starts out precise, ends sloppy

Tommy (Brian Cox) and Austin (Emile Hirsch) confront a medical mystery.

Two and a half stars

The Autopsy of Jane Doe Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Olwen Kelly. Directed by André Øvredal. Rated R. Available on VOD.

Strong early reviews pointed to The Autopsy of Jane Doe, which was released on VOD last week after its September premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, as a last-minute horror highlight for 2016, but the second feature from Norwegian director André Øvredal (director of the entertaining 2010 found-footage movie Trollhunter) only sustains its effective horrors for about half its running time. Øvredal manufactures a suitably creepy atmosphere as father-and-son small-town coroners Tommy and Austin Tilden (Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch) are charged with determining the cause of death of the title character (Olwen Kelly, projecting malice even while motionless on a slab), who was found eerily preserved at a horrific crime scene.

Øvredal uses simple horror devices, including flickering lights, creaking doors and shadowy figures in the background, to build a sense of menace and unease as Tommy and Austin start cutting into Jane, discovering more and more inexplicable irregularities in the corpse. Once the movie shifts from looming dread to outright horror, though, it loses most of its elegance, and the more Tommy and Austin learn about what’s happening, the sillier and less scary it comes across. What starts as creepy and unsettling ends with a wink and a groan.

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