"We are well past possible."

That line alone sums up director André Øvredal's approach to movie-making. After the surprise hit Troll Hunter, Øvredal replaces the vastness of the Norwegian countryside for the claustrophobic confines of a Virginia morgue. The change in setting also denotes a change in tempo, creating a monster movie of a different calibre. Instead of a pylon crushing behemoth, Øvredal creates a more familiar horror.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe is set in the immediate aftermath of a gruesome massacre that left three people brutally murdered in a residential home. It follows the Tildens: morgue owner Tony (Brian Cox, in a role originally for Martin Sheen) and Austin, his son/apprentice (Emile Hirsch) as they attempt to work out the cause of death on a mysterious woman found buried in a basement. Who is she? How did she get here--but more importantly, how is she so clean?

After her transfer to the morgue (why are morgues so creepy, god damn it; old-fashioned wood panelling for days), the film starts its slow, methodical dissection of conventions that make up the majority of today's horror films.

There are a number of jump scares thrown in for good measure but it's the almost nauseating pain of watching Jane Doe motionless on the table that causes stomachs to knot and bum cheeks to clench. It's engrossing. You start second-guessing yourself into what you are seeing; expecting an eyelid to flicker or a bell to ring and it's this second-guessing that flows throughout TAOJD (acronyms now people). The subtle change in camera angle when focusing on Jane Doe also influences your minds-eye into believing she's smiling.

Øvredal is a member of the "slow camera zoom alliance" (you know that slow zoom in on a character in a horror film before something jumps out at you) but also decides to wait patiently, pulling the audience into the same "the fuck is going on" confusion as the characters. The situation that descends on the two morticians is bananas and I can personally guarantee you won't be able to hum a certain song to yourself ever again.

TAOJD is a film drenched in the suds of a tale from the American Gothic era, where the protagonist's inability to part with rational thought causes them to eventually succumb to the madness. There are other elements of this era in play but that's for you to find out for yourself when the film is on general release.

The Bell

Post-Mortem: If you're a fan of horror films then The Autopsy of Jane Doe should be on your list. For those who aren't a fan of the genre, watch it anyway and remember that the top left of the screen is your best friend. Or your knees.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe, directed by André Øvredal, premiered on Thursday 13th October at the 2016 BFI London Film Festival. Go here to learn more.