by Adam Riske and Rob DiCristino
Adam: Welcome to the first episode of Reserved Seating with Rob & Adam. I’m Adam Riske.
Rob: And I’m Rob DiCristino, and this week we watched The Autopsy of Jane Doe.
Adam: The Autopsy of Jane Doe is the new film from director André Øvredal, director of Trollhunter.
Rob: It tells the story of Tommy Tilden (Brian Cox) and his son, Austin (Emile Hirsch), a father/son firm of coroners presented with their strangest case yet: a Jane Doe (Olwen Kelly) found buried in the midst of a brutal murder scene. Jane has no marks, no burns, no visible wounds of any kind, and yet somehow still lies dead on the slab. The deeper the Tildens dig, the more convinced they become that something truly terrifying is going on.
Adam: In this clip, Tommy and Austin reveal a trick of the trade to the young man’s girlfriend. She’s played by the curiously named Ophelia Lovibond.
Rob: That’s the name of a spaceship, not a person.
Adam: I’m sure Roger Moore has googled her at least once.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe has several effective set-pieces like this one in the first act but then slowly devolves into a standard haunted house movie where the house is dull and the secrets revealed in the autopsy of Jane Doe become dumber and dumber and dumber. I usually give low-budget horror movies a pass, but a bad script that’s at odds with the character motivations ultimately negates the intriguing set-up. A real disappointment considering the cred it had on the festival circuit.
Rob: I disagree! I’ll give you the bad expository dialogue and underdeveloped character work, but I got a lot of mileage out of the photography and the autopsy effects. For me, they mostly overcame the clunky story bits and weak last act. I love me a good bottle episode, and I thought the film’s visual language got us comfortable with the space before beginning the drama.
Adam: Oh, Rob! Photography and effects? Admittedly the makeup is good, but is that all it takes for you in 2017? Well then here’s $10, I’ll buy you a ticket to Assassin’s Creed. You’ll love it. The story makes no sense. It’s like a house with a foundation made out of noodles. I mean, Brian Cox is good. This movie shows he can imbue humanity and backstory to the most thinly written character but when they reveal the history of this father-son dynamic late in the film...what does it have to do with Jane Doe? It just seems so arbitrary.
Rob: Yeah that’s the second act atonement moment thrown in seemingly because they realized a movie was supposed to have one. What’s funny is that I really am a story and structure guy, so I should have hated a lot of this. I found myself wishing the kid would shut the hell up and that they would do more of those silent shorthand moments of communication they established at several points. Like, I loved that Cox didn’t blink when Hirsch started pouring gasoline on the body. He just lit the match. The film would have benefited from more of that. And more autopsying, dammit!
Adam: Yeah and then the morgue goes up in CGI flames. Filmmakers, if you can’t afford fire, then don’t write a fire scene in your movie. Fire’s free isn’t it? Why couldn’t they get real fire?
Rob: Guys, in case you haven’t figured it out, Adam is the bad cop.
Adam: I am when you’re letting down the public by giving a disappointment like this a pass.
Adam: And CGI Resident Evil corpses, don’t forget those. So are you voting Mark Ahn or Mark Off? I couldn’t look Mark Ahn in the face and recommend this movie so I’m telling him to “Mark Off” The Autopsy of Jane Doe from his list of movies to watch.
Rob: I thought there were a lot of good and thoughtful bits that didn’t add up to anything much in the end. The movie kind of bailed on itself when it decided to have father and son explain the history of New England for twenty minutes instead of having a climax. I liked the energy and the pacing, as well as the non-performance of Olwen Kelly as the corpse. But it’s a soft Mark Off, for me.
Adam: There you have it. I liked the Cox and Rob liked the corpse. And not much else.
Rob: Same as it ever was.
Adam: On next week’s show, Rob and I will discuss Silence, Martin Scorsese’s long-gestating passion project. Until next time, these seats are reserved.