The Autopsy of Jane Doe: two small-town coroners investigate a fresh “Jane Doe”, whose cause of death becomes increasingly difficult to pin down as they learn about the body. This film is the embodiment of tight and efficient: a brief 15-minute setup; 30 mins of live/real-time autopsy, and the last half the film shifts gears into a full-on supernatural horror / thriller. Not for the faint-hearted, parts of this are horrifying to watch; the autopsy is shown in all of it’s snapping, sawing, scalping glory, and is coloured with buckets of crimson – this will definitely root out the weak and the woozy. Although there are a couple of big (and cheap) ‘modern’ jump-scares the majority of the film’s tension comes through the satisfyingly old-school method of very slowly building a sustained and overbearing sense of dread; the film lets your imagination run wild, and shows some incredible restraint – a couple of moments even stray into ‘pure terror’. As mentioned above, it’s a very tight movie: tight script (tons of subtle clues that tie in together nicely); tight setting (claustrophobic, well-established, and inherently creepy morgue); tight cast (Hirsch and Cox are a great/safe pair of hands, with fantastic chemistry). In fact, the only thing that minorly lets the film down is the ending, which is good, but doesn’t do justice to the slow-cooker setup. A completely unrelated follow-up to the fantastic TrollHunter, Norwegian director André Øvredal is proving himself as a very strong and competent film-maker – once again his direction is meticulous, without being the slightest bit ‘auteurial’ or flashy. Few things excite me less than ‘modern horror’, yet because of its throwback sensibilities ‘Autopsy’ feels more a John Carpenter picture than the ‘Paranormal Conjuring 27’ films modern audiences are being served up.
Troll Hunter: a student film crew get more than they bargain for when they start following a suspected bear poacher in Norway. The clever part is that someone has taken the awesome ‘Man Bites Dog’ concept of students filming an interesting figure, and simply added trolls. There are two main reasons why this works for me; firstly, Hans the Trollhunter is a superb character, totally deadpan and very interesting / serious / believable / captivating (could have been a grotesque caricature). Secondly, there are so many pieces of additional info and detail in every scene – that didn’t really need to be there – but help build a fuller picture, so much so that you’d be forgiven for momentarily buying in to the concept. Being a B-movie (majority of footage is handheld and ‘everyday’) the special effects are surprisingly good, and effectively utilised. The only major downside is that the faux documentary style is a bit ten years ago, but would be hard to do this any other way. Finally, the stunning Norwegian scenery is worth the entrance fee alone. Bottom line here is that if you like smart, tight, original and entertaining B-movies – you won’t need to look much further than this at the moment.