HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE (2016)

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THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE (2016)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Spooky flick tells of the unidentified corpse of a young women (Olwen Kelly) found buried in the cellar of a house that is already the scene of two gruesome deaths. The body is turned over to Tommy (Brian Cox) and Austin Tilden (Emile Hirsch), who are a father and son team of coroners who run their own morgue. The autopsy of this “Jane Doe” is most perplexing. On the outside her body seems perfect, yet as they explore deeper, her insides appear to show signs the women was horribly tortured. Add to that mysterious ritualistic symbols found on a cloth inside her body, the Tildens are getting deeper into a mystery they are having trouble solving. Worse still, the further they examine the women’s body, the more it seems some kind of malevolent presence has been unleashed. Who was this woman and what evil has entered their morgue through her?

Entertaining and chilling flick is written by Ian Goldberg and Richard Naing and directed by Trollhunter director André Øvredal and has a novel premise with it’s story of an autopsy, first causing a mystery for it’s examiners and then releasing some spooky supernatural goings on. The film is well directed by Øvredal who slowly builds tension and atmosphere as our father/son duo dig deeper into examining the corpse of this women and everything they find defies logic and science. At first it appears to just be a crime thriller about an unusual cause of death, but slowly becomes something darker and more unnatural as we proceed. Once things go fully supernatural, the film is quite spooky and delivers some nice chills till the unnerving final moments. If anything holds the film back, it’s that the big reveal doesn’t seem to quite fit comfortably with the rest of the film. The explanation is full blown supernatural/fantasy and while it is surprising, it doesn’t seem to mesh well with a film that began as scientific investigation. The autopsy performed may have been delivering information that made no sense to our main characters, but the shift from scientific mystery to a full blown, and very familiar, occult/supernatural explanation is a bit jarring, even though the supernatural occurrences that were building as a result of their examination do work well. The otherworldly elements were being slowly mixed in, it’s just that the actually reveal is a bit ‘out there’ considering how grounded the film starts out. It doesn’t sink the film, it just seems to unbalance the mix of science and supernatural that was working well till this point. That and our two examiners seem to accept the supernatural a bit too quickly for men who have based their careers in scientific investigation. The film is, overall still effective and chilling, it’s just that perhaps something a bit more clever was expected where the answer we get is very old school horror. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just we were hoping for something less common for a horror flick, due to the intriguing set-up. Obviously, also expect some gore due to the nature of the story and it is rendered well.

The cast is small. Save for a few supporting characters that make brief appearances, like Austin’s girlfriend (Ophelia Lovibond) and the local sheriff (Michael McElhatton), it’s all Cox and Hirsch who are very good. Cox is a veteran and has turned in many a good performance and he is solid here as Tommy Tilden. He is a medical man and a man of science who is diving deeper into a mystery that challenges his scientific beliefs. He seems to accept the supernatural explanation a little too quickly, though, for a man whose career is based in facts, but that is the script and not the actor, who is first rate here. Hirsch is equally good. His character accepts that something unnatural is going on here much quicker and the actor conveys well a young man willing to accept something supernatural is occurring, as his veteran father takes a bit longer to believe this is not science they are dealing with. The two actors have a good chemistry and are believable as father and son. It makes the film click that these two are so convincing in their roles. As for poor Olwen Kelly, the actress plays a corpse and appears to have been quite a trooper playing the entire part completely nude and remaining perfectly still while be poked and prodded by the two leads. Using a real person here, instead of a prosthetic, adds to the effectiveness.

So, it’s not perfect, but still effective and entertaining. It has a clever premise and the director builds the story nicely along with some strong atmosphere and some very spooky sequences. I may not have been completely onboard with the big reveal, as it seemed to tilt the balance of science and supernatural more into familiar horror flick territory, when something more inventive or unexpected was what one was waiting for. Overall, definitely worth a watch and for the most part, a very spooky flick that only slightly disappoints when it set us up with such an intriguing mystery and solves it with something a little too familiar.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 scalpels.

harvest rating

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: EXIT HUMANITY (2013)

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EXIT HUMANITY (2013)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Exit Humanity is an interesting approach to a typical zombie story. It is told by a narrator (Brian Cox) and in chapters from a journal by Confederate soldier, Edward Young (Mark Gibson) who details the story of a zombie outbreak that occurs just as the Civil War is ending and the personal quest he embarks on in the midst of it.

Director/writer John Geddes does give us a lot of the traditional zombie movie elements like the flesh eating, the shot to the head and the humans who are worse then the ravenous zombies, but, also gives us a unique setting, some nicely visualized dream sequences and even some really cool flashbacks and montage sequences done with animation. The make up effects are good, although the film lacks the abundant gore fans look for, and Gibson makes a nice hero trying to keep his humanity despite what is happening around him. There are some flaws that keep the film from being a really strong entry in the zombie sub-genre as the pace is rather slow, the film is a tad long, and despite his novel touches and setting, there really isn’t anything new story-wise here, or themes that others haven’t touched on before in these films…although, the cause of his zombie plague was a cool twist once revealed.

Aside from a serviceable lead in Mark Gibson, the cast also includes genre favorites Dee Wallace as Eve a healer thought to be a witch and Bill Moseley as General Williams a megalomanic who wants to find a cure to the zombie plague, so he may become rich and powerful. Williams doesn’t care how many innocents die while his outmatched doctor (Stephen McHattie) experiments on both the dead and the living.

All in all, it’s not bad and certainly worth a watch if you like zombie movies and, most of all, John Geddes shows some nice potential as a filmmaker and some growth after the OK cannibal horror Scarce. He utilizes his more unique touches well, he frames his shots very nicely and pulls off some effective moments. A nice, though not without it’s flaws, horror flick from Mr. Geddes.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Confederate caps.

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HALLOWEEN FAVORITES: TRICK ‘R TREAT (2007)

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TRICK ‘R TREAT (2007)

Trick ‘r Treat has already become an instant cult classic and it makes it’s rather odd release by Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures all the more a mystery. The film was originally supposed to come out in October 2007 for Halloween, but a major release never happened and it was only shown at a few film festivals and then was finally dumped direct to DVD two years later in October 2009, despite favorable reviews and good word of mouth. But the movie has been discovered by horror fans and has quickly become a Halloween favorite for many… it’s definitely one of mine. So, not sure what the studios problem was with this great little Halloween flick, but at least it is finally getting the attention it deserves and has earned a well respected status in the genre.

Trick ‘r Treat is a ghoulishly entertaining anthology that tells a group of stories that are unleashed upon it’s audience in a Pulp Fiction-like narrative structure that goes back and forth in time linking them all together and they are all presided over by spooky new horror icon Sam, who watches from a distance or becomes directly involved as in the first and final tales. We get the story of a young husband and wife (Tahmoh Penikett and Leslie Bibb) who find out certain Halloween traditions are there for a reason, the tale of a school principal (Dylan Baker) with a gruesome Halloween hobby that may come back to bite him, a group of kids investigating an urban legend about the murder of a busload of Special Ed. students with horrifying results, Anna Paquin playing a young woman about to lose her virginity in blood curdling fashion and the final tale about a grumpy and mean old man (Brian Cox) who is tricked and treated on Halloween night by Sam himself.

Written and directed by Michael Dougherty we get a movie that understands that Halloween should be spooky, scary and ghoulish fun…and Trick R Treat is all those things, a movie that embodies the spirit of Halloween as few others apart from John Carpenter’s classic have. The film is thick with atmosphere, stunning cinematography by Glen MacPherson, top notch gore and make-up FX and plenty of frights and delights. The cast all take their parts seriously and play them with exactly the right tone needed in the context of their story, making it all work perefectly in the Halloween spirit it is intended and evil little imp Sam is the spooky icing on the ghoulish cake.

A real Halloween treat if ever there was one. Trick ‘r Treat is now part of my Halloween watching tradition alongside Carpenter’s legendary fright fest and one of my all time favorite Halloween season films!

4 spooky Sams!

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