'The Autopsy of Jane Doe': A Movie Review

Updated on April 4, 2019
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Rekindling my love of horror and thriller movies, television shows, and sharing my thoughts with whoever may read them.

Olwen Kelly as Jane Doe in 'The Autopsy of Jane Doe' (2016).
Olwen Kelly as Jane Doe in 'The Autopsy of Jane Doe' (2016).

Story Summary

The movie opens with the panning of the camera around a very normal home in a quaint and bright Virginia neighborhood. But with a literal flash, the scene turns dark; crime scene investigators photograph blood spatters and smears, bodies are lying on the floor and evidence markers can be seen as the police move through the home.

We're ushered to a basement by Sheriff Burke where a woman has been buried, or un-buried, in the dirt floor. The woman's body is only partially unearthed, naked and clean, unusually clean for someone surrounded by so much dirt. This is our introduction to Jane Doe.

Tommy and Austin Tilden are a father-son team working in the family-owned morgue and crematorium. Austin is greeted by his girlfriend, Emma, who wants him to leave work and go on a proper date. But, as they are leaving the morgue Sheriff Burke arrives with the body of Jane Doe, and the way Burke acts triggers something within Austin, pulling him away from Emma and back into the basement morgue with his father.

Sheriff Burke and Tommy discuss the discovery of Jane Doe while Austin waits. 'The Autopsy of Jane Doe' (2016).
Sheriff Burke and Tommy discuss the discovery of Jane Doe while Austin waits. 'The Autopsy of Jane Doe' (2016).

Sheriff Burke explains the scene in which Jane Doe was discovered; a couple and a local handyman hired to do some repairs for them, all murdered. Nothing on the outside of the home suggests someone tried to break in, however evidence they found within the home paints a very different picture; they were trying to break out. The only thing within the crime scene that can't be explained to the hounding press, is the existence of Jane Doe. Who is she? Where did she come from? How did she die? Nothing they found within the home gave them any answers, and he needed answers for the press by morning.

Jane's arrival to the morgue prompts immediate changes, some more noticeable than others; flickering lights, noises in the distance and the slow opening of doors just to name a few.

From the very start of the autopsy, Tommy and Austin are baffled as to how so many injuries could be sustained by this poor woman, without a single noticeable mark on the outside of her body. As they continue, every cut into Jane, every new discovery as to her death and even her life prior to death, the scene gets a little more grim, a little more haunting, until the truth about Jane Doe is finally fully realized.

Main Cast/Characters

Emile Hirsch
Austin Tilden
Brian Cox
Tommy Tilden
Olwen Kelly
Jane Doe
Ophelia Lovinbond
Michael McElhatton
Sheriff Burke
Parker Sawyers
Officer Cole

Behind the Scenes

André Øvredal
Fred Berger
Eric Garcia
Ben Pugh
Rory Aitken
Ian Gldberg
Richard Naing
Patrick Larsgaard
Production Company
IM Global
Production Company
Impostor Pictures
Production Company
IFC Midnight
Distributed by

Favorite Character

Emile Hirsch as Austin Tilden in 'The Autopsy of Jane Doe' (2016).
Emile Hirsch as Austin Tilden in 'The Autopsy of Jane Doe' (2016).

Much like 'Hush', this movie has a very short cast list and an even shorter list of characters who actually speak throughout the film. However, the character of Austin Tilden has to be my favorite. I can't imagine doing that line of work and I can imagine even less how you'd be able to do it and not wonder 'why', especially when working a murder case. Although he is told by his father, Tommy, during the autopsy that the 'why' is not their concern, he can't help ask that very question.

From the beginning of the film we learn that Austin isn't exactly thrilled with the line of work his family has been in for the past few generations, and it's not the line of work he wishes to continue, but out of love and concern for his father, he stays on and continues to learn and work side-by-side with him every day. Family first.

Memorable Quotes

Brian Cox as Tommy Tilden in 'The Autopsy of Jane Doe' (2016).
Brian Cox as Tommy Tilden in 'The Autopsy of Jane Doe' (2016).

"Every body has a secret, some just hide them better than others." - Tommy Tilden as he explains to Austin that the cause of death for the man they just autopsied was more complex than Austin had originally thought. I like this quote because it not only can refer to the physical body (every body) but also who they are as a person (everybody).

"Whatever happened in here, we are way past possible." - Austin Tilden to his father after Tommy tries to explain that Jane Doe couldn't possibly be the cause of everything that had been happening. Sometimes in life no matter how impossible something may seem, it still happens.


A little investigating leads Tommy to a flower, Jimson Weed, during his evaluation in 'The Autopsy of Jane Doe' (2016).
A little investigating leads Tommy to a flower, Jimson Weed, during his evaluation in 'The Autopsy of Jane Doe' (2016).

I love horror and thriller movies that drop little hints early on that can be recalled by the audience later. This movie does this. One such hint is when the cat, Stanley, is seen hissing at the body of Jane Doe after she's wheeled into the morgue. It's said that a cat can sense the energy of a spirit, and from Stanley's reaction, the one he just encountered is not friendly.

The acting is top-notch. With movies with very few characters, sometimes I will start to tire of them, either the acting just isn't up to par or the character himself is just lacking for my personal taste or a particular character's storyline just isn't very interesting, but this wasn't the case with either of the characters, Tommy and Austin. I enjoyed them both throughout the entire movie and the little bits of family history we learn along the way answers some questions I had early on.

This movie has a supernatural twist and there was a scene where my mind immediately went to a TV show I love, 'Supernatural ', and the saying they have as they hunt down and eliminate evil spirits, "what burns, stays dead", Jane Doe, however, proves otherwise.


A figure appears in a hallway security mirror inside the Tilden Morgue.  'The Autopsy of Jane Doe' (2016)
A figure appears in a hallway security mirror inside the Tilden Morgue. 'The Autopsy of Jane Doe' (2016)

After pulling the flower from Jane Doe's stomach, Tommy says that it's Jimson Weed and was used as a paralytic, but Jimson Weed has no paralyzing capabilities. I just wish they would've found a flower that would have actually matched the results they wanted for this storyline.

I have been watching a lot of shows that focus on crime scenes for years, the CSI franchise for one, and one thing that baffled me was the fact that Jane Doe was the only body brought in from the crime scene. I would think that of all of the bodies that were found, hers would be the last one out, simply because they would need to slowly dig her out, watching for any evidence that may have been buried with her as they went. That being said, I did like the fact that she was in the morgue alone and that she remained the sole focus for Tommy and Austin.

Just a small visual nitpick about one scene when Austin falls; it feels off and tried to be more theatrical than it needed to be. Not the best shot in the film, but not the worst I've seen in some of the more recent releases either.

Although I wasn't a fan of the Emma character, she did bring enough to the story that it didn't make me roll my eyes whenever she was on screen, which wasn't much. It wasn't the acting of Ophelia Lovibond, she was great, it was just the selfish nature of the character herself.

Would I Recommend?

I would definitely recommend this movie. I enjoy thriller movies and shows where I see little things and try to forward think as to what those little things could represent or hint at in upcoming scenes. I loved the amount of tension that is kept throughout the majority of this movie, and the number of jump scares was great; you know me, I love a good jump scare, however, they can be overdone. There are some small inconsistencies and factual errors that I noticed, but they're not enough to put me off of the film entirely.

On my rating scale of Buy/Theater/Rent/Netflix, I'm not sure I would buy it, but it's one I would definitely pay to see in the theater.

How would you rate 'The Autopsy of Jane Doe'?

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© 2019 Veronica

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