Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) sneak previews at Lincoln Center

This is going to be a three part review. The first part is going to be a review of the film as an experience, the second will be an analysis of the film and the third will be the look at the screening last Tuesday night at Lincoln Center.
Rufus DeRham talks to Brian Cox, Andre Ovredal and Emile Hirsch

The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a fun thrill ride of a film. The story of what happens when the half buried and perfectly preserved body of a young woman is found in the basement floor of a home where a horrible tragedy has taken place is a frequently a blast. The body being in the floor makes no sense and the police bring the body to the local coroner hoping for fast answers since it’s the one piece of evidence that makes no sense. As the coroner and his son do their job things spin out in weird ways and it soon becomes clear all is not right.

A well done scare ride the film is mostly a blast on its own terms. Gross, this is about an autopsy after all, the graphic nature of the film is used to great effect to heighten the tension. There are some jump scares and lots of genuine tension as things go weird and the dead walk.

I had a great time seeing the film in a theater with an audience all screaming and laughing together. This is a really run film and it’s recommended with the strong suggestion that the first time you see the film you really see the film straight through to the end. This is not a film that will work in pieces the first time through because all the tension will be lost.
Brian Cox

(spoilers ahead)

Unfortunately as much fun as Autopsy is the script is complete and utter mess if you think about it for an instant. While the film is perfectly fine for about three quarters of its running time there is a point where you realize that the film is not going to be able to connect up all the pieces even remotely. Things happen for the hell of it with the result that by the time one character meets a grizzly end the fear is gone and we’re just enjoying the ride to the end.

In all seriousness things don’t make sense from large and intact flower inside a stomach (it was supposed to have been used to drug her but she could never have swallowed it intact), to writing on the inside of skin, to how did the woman end up in the basement of a house, to the motivations for Jane Doe to kill everyone just because she’s pissed off, to no one paying any attention to the Polaroids of the autopsied body yet her being an intact one on the slab, to the open cremetorium, to all the other threads come out of left field and make no sense even in the context of the film.

The sheer weight of the lack of logic becomes too much and removes all trace of terror. It’s not that what we are seeing isn’t scary rather it is, but at a certain point it becomes clear that any and all twists are going to be cheats. The film simply won’t play fair, even on its own terms and it takes the edge off the film making what should have been one of the great horror films a really good on instead.

It’s a shame because everything other than the script is first rate.

I know I shouldn’t bitch this is a horror film, but there is some sort of a formula that requires stories to remain internally consistent and to never ask the audience to make more than one (or maybe two) jumps in logic to work. Autopsy requires fifty seven. It’s simply too much, and while the film is freight train of fun to start it’s gonna be hurt when people start thinking about it.

Ultimately don’t think about what you are seeing.

The screening Tuesday night at Lincoln Center. The New York premiere the film was also the first time that actor Brian Cox saw the film. He was there with his family three rows inform of me and my brother while Emile Hirsch and his entourage was right in front of me. Hirsch was clearly into the film, leaning forward on his seat during the screening as if getting lost in the terror on screen.
Emile Hirsch

What was cool was because of where I sat I go to see Hirsch and Cox interact and it’s clear they are genuinely friendly. The loving father and son relationship on screen has a real world analog as they jokes and kibitzed with each other on a level way beyond a professional one.
Andre Ovredal

Director André Øvredal introduced the film and afterward, he, Hirsch and Cox sat down with Rufus De Rham for a Q&A. While I call Rufus a friend there is nothing but genuine respect for his ability to do an interview and hold and audience under his spell. I’ve seen all sorts of people do Q&As and Rufus is truly one of the best since he not only speaks with authority, but also because it’s clear he’s a fan as well, he is one of us and wants to know what we want to know. Too often, especially at the Film Society, the interviewers forget that the audience isn’t academics.

Talk during the discussion, which went all over the place, there was much discussion of their morgue expert who Cox and Hirsch said spoke of not wearing masks, nor gloves and taking a less than by the book approach to doing his job. He also regaled them with some truly awful stories about the things he had seen.

Also a great deal of praise was thrown the way of Olwen Kelly who played Jane Doe. Brian Cox was in awe of her ability to remain motionless since according to both him and Hirsch about 85% of her time on screen is actually her and not the model. He said that she intentionally made little contact with the two of them since she was not supposed to be interacting with them as such. Hirsch spoke of how they had strategically placed blocks of foam so she didn’t freeze on the cold marble.

The talk was one of the best I’ve seen at a Scary Movie event at Lincoln Center and it left me wanting to talk to both Cox and Hirsch at some later point.

THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE opens in theaters and on VOD on December 21st

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