Though it may not be the most inspired follow-up to Trollhunter by director André Øvredal, this forensic thriller delivers enough goopy gore and compelling acting to compensate for a third act that sadly ventures into more generic territory.
After father-and-son coroners Tommy (Emile Hirsch) and Austin Tilden (Brian Cox) take custody of an unidentified corpse discovered in a shallow grave, they attempt to figure out exactly what happened to the beautiful young woman, and of course, before long things take a deeply disturbing turn.
While it’ll do little business outside its specific gorehound niche, Autopsy is, for at least an hour, an intriguing, blood-soaked meditation on the mysteries a dead body leaves behind, and the modern techniques that can be used to reconstruct that missing narrative.
Øvredal lingers on the blood-letting in a way uniquely fascinating, braced appropriately between rigorous medical examination and something much more daft. Gore effects are first-rate as is necessary to make the conceit work, while the film smartly steers far away from leering over the corpse’s shapely female form beyond that which is required.
To that end, Olwen Catherine Kelly’s performance as the dead body is definitely one of the most interesting things here – and don’t consider that a knock to her co-stars – a challenging role given how autopsy scenes so rarely become the focal point of any movie. Hirsch and Cox, meanwhile, are rock solid and absolutely believable as father-and-son, even if they’re handicapped somewhat by a script that devolves into supernatural cliches in its final half-hour.
That’s what sadly prevents the film from being anything more than three-star; for all of its style and performances, the plot regresses back to something much more familiar and studio-friendly in that final stretch, and it ends the film on something of an underwhelming note, such that those three stars only barely hold.
With a stronger conclusion, this could’ve been a firm cult classic, and while it’s sure to still have its cheerleaders, it ultimately smacks of a film mangled – probably by a bean counter – in the creative process.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe is in US cinemas December 21st