Gilbert Speaks On “The Autopsy of Jane Doe”

21 Nov


I recently watched a film that although I’m a lover of horror films, scared the bejeebers out of me. “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” is touted as an American supernatural horror film, but it was so much more. The film touched a nerve with this ole ghost investigator. To find out why this film made it into the coveted “Granny’s Insomnia Theatre” meet me after the jump.


Before working as a substitute teacher, and before working at the Academy of Natural Sciences, I worked for fifteen years as the Unit Secretary for the Intensive Care Unit and Operating Room of a South Philadelphia neighborhood hospital. When we were short staff, I was asked to go to the hospital morgue to retrieve a stretcher from the freezer. Sometimes, there were bodies in the freezer awaiting pickup from a mortuary. Although I’d been seeing ghosts since I was a toddler, dead bodies always freaked me out. After one strange occurrence while in the morgue, I always took a sidekick along with me to the basement where the morgue was located.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe was directed by Andre Ovredal of the successful Trollhunter. It stars Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox as a father and son team of coroners. We soon realize that although the film starts off as a murder mystery, it soon morphs into one hell of a scary ghost story.


Sheriff Sheldon Burke (Michael McElhatton) and his officers are investigating a home where multiple family members are found viciously murdered. There are no signs of forced entrance, and in fact, it appears that the victims were trying to escape from the home. In the basement, the forensic team finds an unidentified corpse. The young woman is found half-buried in the dirt cellar. There are no signs of trauma on the body, and no clues to how she got there. Sheriff Burke takes the body to the local coroner in hopes that dental records will lead to a name and that the cause of death can be documented.

Tommy Tilden (Brian Cox) and his son Austin Tilden (Emile Hirsch) are the coroners for a little town. Their autopsy and morgue is located in the basement of the huge home they share. There are only two ways to the morgue: elevator and storm cellar entrance. Although Austin has a date with his girlfriend Emma (Ophelia Lovibond) he is hesitant to dump the autopsy on dad, especially since the sheriff has stated that this case is a priority.

When Emma stops in to visit, both father and son have a bit of fun with her by allowing her to see the bodies in the freezer. One of the bodies has a bell around its ankle. Tommy explains that bells were used in the old days to alert people if a corpse was in reality a person who’d had the misfortune to be in a coma, but we horror film aficionados already know those bells are going to play an important part later in the film.

Jane Doe

Olwen Kelly plays the corpse known only as Jane Doe. I would have loved to witness the casting call when it was advertised.


Olwen Kelly’s job was to lie on the autopsy table, naked and sliced open, as Tommy and Austin do their meticulous investigation. Although she has no speaking or action parts, Ms. Kelly was all the more frightening as a corpse…a beautiful corpse, but a frightening one.

The Autopsy

There is a loving relationship between father and son with the father being the more experienced in getting the dead to speak. The fact that a dead body can tell us many secrets is evident as the autopsy continues. Tommy and Austin are disturbed by the discrepancy between the external body and internal organs. In a scientific manner, which fans of shows like “NCIS” and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” will enjoy, the father and son are shocked to see extreme injuries to the lungs and vaginal area, plus her tongue has been severed.


The lungs are badly burnt, and yet, the body of Jane Doe is unmarked. When the team finds one of Jane’s teeth inside her stomach, things get really weird. The cloth that is wrapped around the tooth holds Roman numerals that lead to a bible verse about witches. It is then, that the film’s crime scene changes into a full-blown-ghost story.


I don’t want to tell you the rest of the story. This film is something that you must watch on your own. It’s a great film and it is scary enough to make it into my collection. The job of a medium and a coroner are similar. One speaks to ghosts, and the other, to dead bodies.


Even though both jobs are similar, I’m never afraid of the spirits. By the time I connect with ghosts, they’ve already settled into their spiritual realm and are rather happy. There is something unnerving about a dead body, especially when it’s laid upon a metal table, or on a stretcher in a hospital morgue. When is dead, really dead?

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