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2016 has had it's share of good and, sometimes, great horror movies. It's no secret that horror is often a gateway for young writers and directors to get noticed. That's what we have here, folks.

is the first English language movie by Norwegian Director Andre Ovredal, whose 2011 found footage flick Trollhunter was a middling success. What he has accomplished here is a taut, eerie, and often playful film which turns the haunted house genre on it's ear by staging almost the entire movie in a dank, claustrophobic basement morgue.

The Setup

The heart and soul of the film centers on the father and son mortician team of Tommy (Brian Cox) and Austin (Emile Hirsch) Tilden, who have a comfortable, worn in chemistry.

courtesy IFC
courtesy IFC

Given the rather gruesome family business, the tandem nonetheless tackles the job with good humor and a healthy curiosity: always looking for the facts, eschewing speculation at all costs.

Austin feels a sense of duty towards his widowed dad, even though he'd love to leave and move on with his girlfriend Emma (Ophelia Lovibond). She comes by the morgue and the guys tease her, giving her a look at a couple of the resident corpses. Tommy shows her that he ties a small bell to the toe of a body, just to make sure the person is actually dead. Any horror fan worth his/her salt knows that will be important later.

Hello Jane Doe

The sheriff brings the duo the body of a young girl, found naked and half buried in the basement at the scene of a brutal multiple homicide.

courtesy IFC
courtesy IFC

The body appears to be pristine, with no discernible cause of death, so it's up to the Tilden boys to find out how Jane Doe died, and why.

What follows is a wonderful cat and mouse exercise of discovery and speculation, as the director builds the tension with each inexplicable and shocking finding.

Just when you think the story is going one way, it whipsaws back to a more sinister direction. As the discoveries are made, each new one more gruesome than the last, the duo finds themselves hurtling down a rabbit-hole of disbelief, straight into the horrible realization of the truth behind who Jane Doe really is.

courtesy IFC
courtesy IFC

Cox and Hirsch are wonderful here, with amazing chemistry throughout. And major kudos must go to Olwen Kelly, who portrays Jane in truly chilling fashion. Even though she spends the entire movie as a corpse, with no lines and no movement (save one creepy moment), she delivers an amazing performance with just her eyes and mouth. At various times she portrays rage, evil, and even sardonic wit, just with facial expressions.

courtesy IFC
courtesy IFC

She is nude for the entire film, but she is not shot in a prurient or lascivious manner. She is shown clinically at first, but is later portrayed as an object of mystery. No over the top body horror cliches here, which adds gravitas to the proceedings in admirable fashion.

The old adage that "sometimes things are better left alone" is no more true than in The Autopsy of Jane Doe.

The direction, acting, script, , lighting, and score are all top notch here, making The Autopsy of Jane Doe one of the most surprising and satisfying horror offerings of 2016.

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