In The Autopsy of Jane Doe, André Øvredal’s follow-up to his found-footage indie sleeper hit Trollhunter, a mysterious (and sexy) corpse turns up as part of a bloody multiple-murder scene in a seemingly typical family home. The sheriff delivers the body to a father-son coroner team, Tommy (Brian Cox) and Austin (Emile Hirsch) Tilden, who are charged with finding the cause of death before sunup. Soon after the body’s arrival, the spirit of a malevolent witch invades their basement autopsy room, simultaneously trapping them and forcing them to find out why this woman died — not just how — if they want to escape alive. Without the serious acting talent of its leads, this color-saturated gross-out horror could have devolved into a mess, but The Autopsy of Jane Doe proves imperfect fun even when it starts to play like CSI: Salem.
Cox lends legitimacy to every project he’s in. Here his Tommy bleeds gravitas whenever he finds a clue, like the partially digested flower in the corpse’s stomach that he somehow immediately identifies as a plant that was used as a paralyzing agent in olden times.
Øvredal distracts from the cheesy script with dramatic camera angles that imbue even silly scenes with an ominous air. Every rib crack or scalpel cut is a shocking moment, never anesthetized. And his choice to do repeated close-ups on the inanimate face of the corpse makes her a full character, even if she never moves or says a word. It would be nice, however, if for once a female corpse wasn’t sexualized with big perfect dead boobs.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe
Directed by André Øvredal
Opens December 21, IFC Center
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