The Autopsy of Jane Doe Movie Explained: What’s the Story Behind?

“Things worse than death”: the essence of the thriller The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016): plot analysis, essence, meaning of the film, explanation of the ending, similar thrillers.

Country: UK

Genre: horror, thriller, detective

Year of production: 2016

Director: Andre Evredal

Actors: Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch, Ophelia Lovibond

Slogan: “There are things worse than death”

Director Andre Øvredal is known for making unconventional films. In them he shows himself to be a skilled storyteller and an intelligent, sensitive interlocutor.

Despite the fact that the meaning of the film The Autopsy of Jane Doe” lies on the surface, it cannot be called a typical horror film. This film, torn between a mystical thriller with detective elements, an arthouse with sophisticated pretensions and a gore film, is truly frightening and leaves a viscous aftertaste.

What is the movie about

Brief description of the content of the film The Autopsy of Jane Doe. In the basement of the house where a triple murder was committed the other day, police discover the body of an unidentified woman. The officer asks pathologist Tommy Tilden to determine the cause of her death. He must do this before morning.

Brian CoxBrian Cox played the role of Tommy Tilden. Still from the film.

Having learned about this, Tommy’s son Austin, also a pathologist, decides to help him. A father and son work in a small private morgue, in one of the departments of which there are three more bodies. The identity of the dead girl cannot be established and therefore, according to the statute, she is called Jane Doe.

Upon initial examination, the victim’s body seems very strange to both specialists. In particular, the girl’s eyes look as if death occurred a long time ago. In addition, the body does not seem numb, and under the nails of the young beauty, pathologists find traces of peat, which is not typical for the area in which they live and work. One of the most terrible signs – the absence of language – makes Tommy and Austin seriously think. One of them comes up with a strange idea: what if the girl became a victim of a terrible cult? But is this really possible in the 21st century?

At the second stage of analyzing the “Jane Doe case,” it turns out that the girl’s lungs are filled with coal dust (that is, they are as if they were not there), and her bones, ankles and wrists are not just broken, but crushed. A paralyzing agent, Jimsonweed, is found in the victim’s stomach, which is not used either in the city where the pathologists work or in the country. Next, a missing tooth is found in “Jane Doe’s” stomach. It is wrapped in a piece of cloth painted with Roman numerals, letters and a strange diagram.

Experts are at a loss and cannot find a single rational interpretation. Exactly at this moment all sorts of strange things happen: the electricity goes out, a storm suddenly begins on the street. In the corridor of the morgue, Tommy notices a figure, and a little later, for some unknown reason, the cat he and his son share dies.

Emil HirschThe role of Austin was played by Emile Hirsch. Still from the film.

Further on in the story, the third stage of the autopsy begins. On the skin of the corpse, Tommy discovers the same symbols as on the fabric, and they are applied from the inside. In search of a solution, pathologists express version after version, which they themselves seem strange and absurd. The storm outside is raging more and more, and a fallen tree is blocking the front door of the morgue. The radio turns on and the song “Open Up Your Heart” begins to play, which talks about demons, and a little later the pathologists hear the quiet ringing of a bell.

Realizing that “something has gone wrong,” Austin carefully looks into the corridor, to his horror, he sees a dead man walking there and closes the door tightly. Noticing him, the walking dead man with an eerie roar begins to break into the room in which Austin and Tommy are trying to establish the cause of Jane Doe’s death. According to the young man, what is happening is real devilry, and the damned body is to blame for everything – before his appearance, the dead did not walk along the corridors. However, Tommy believes Austin is wrong.

Towards the end, several more frightening events occur and in the end Tommy agrees that Austin’s words make sense. After consulting, they decide to burn the body right in the morgue. The fire from the ignited corpse quickly spreads to the ceiling and walls, and pathologists quickly extinguish the flames.

Scared to death, they compare all the evidence and soon the terrible meaning of everything that is happening slowly begins to dawn on both of them: it turns out that Jane Doe is a witch and she is still alive…

The Autopsy of Jane Doe Ending explained

Explanation of the ending of the picture. According to Tommy, life in the dead girl is supported by some otherworldly (probably demonic) energy. After discussing the situation, pathologists come to the conclusion that most likely Jane Doe is one of the notorious “Salem witches.” Moreover, Tommy, confident that the hysteria at that time was far-fetched and that during the shameful trial, home-grown inquisitors persecuted the innocent, expresses the idea that the authorities of Salem ultimately gave birth to the very evil that they seemed to be fighting against.

The demon inside Jane Doe is nothing more than a desire to take revenge on her offenders, coupled with the desire to make everyone experience the fear and horror that befell her. Moreover: the “witch” will be able to rest in peace and leave only if one of the sinful people (guilty of something) in her opinion agrees to endure all the torments that she endured.

Returning again to the question of what happened in the house in which the girl’s body was found, Tommy comes to the conclusion that all those killed are just random victims of the wrath of the “witch” and assumes that they were all “sinful” to one degree or another. After this, he remembers several “sins” and tries to make a deal with the undead girl: his life in exchange for Austin’s life. She accepts his sacrifice, and he dies in terrible agony, while her body quickly recovers. However, the demon still violates the terms of the deal: closer to the morning, when the police arrive at the pathologists’ house in the morning, Austin stumbles, falls down the flight of stairs and dies.

At the scene, officers discover terrible traces of the tragedy that happened that night – exactly the same as in the very house where Jane Doe was found. The young woman’s body looks intact, untouched. The sheriff, guessing that some kind of devilry was going on in the morgue at night, demands that the corpse be taken somewhere far away, for example, to Virginia.

autopsy at the morgueStill from the film.

At the very end of the film, the body is taken away in an ambulance, the driver of which is trying to justify himself to his wife for the betrayal he recently committed. But this fact is enough: the song “Open Up Your Heart” starts playing on the radio and the bell rings. Probably the meaning of the ending of the film The Autopsy of Jane Doe is that the deceased’s anger has not yet subsided and she has already chosen her next victim.

The meaning of the film The Autopsy of Jane Doe

Andre Øvredal’s painting is quite simple: there is no deep philosophy or hidden meaning in it. However, it also cannot be called a superficial horror film for the evening, if only because of the idea embedded in it, which is personified by the dead Jane Doe. It lies in the fact that evil cannot be overcome by evil.

It is not for nothing that the Salem trial is considered one of the most shameful pages in US history. Europe at that time was preparing to enter the Age of Enlightenment, and in New England they continued to believe in witchcraft and witches who had intercourse with the devil. Amid the mass hysteria that swept through the illiterate and semi-savage, but incredibly religious population of Salem at the end of the 17th century, many innocent people died. Provoked by a strong fear of the unknown, slander and denunciations spread like a plague – anyone could be a “witch” or “witcher.” The investigation was carried out haphazardly – in fact, no one was interested in the truth. Following the advice of Heinrich Institoris, who gave the world the monstrous “Witches’ Hammer,” the authorities only sought to ensure that the “guilty” confessed. However, a little later they themselves admit that there were no witches in Salem – and will incur the eternal curse of their descendants…

Ophelia LovibondThe role of Emma was played by Ophelia Lovibond. Still from the film.

Whether the unfortunate “Jane Doe” was a witch (in the context of the film) is unknown. One thing is clear: the girl went through monstrous torture. Perhaps she really was connected with dark forces, or perhaps, unable to withstand the torment, she cursed the investigators before her death, which a certain demonic entity took advantage of.

Trying to understand what the essence of the film is, some viewers offer another interpretation. Probably, all the evidence discovered by pathologists testifies not so much to torture, but to the desire of the inquisitors to seal the demon inside the witch. And he was there simply because Jane Doe, according to the script (the corresponding mise-en-scène was not included in the film) was the seventh daughter of a Puritan family – according to an old legend, such girls possessed powerful witchcraft powers.

What they did to her would not even be dreamed of in a nightmare, but in the end the girl still remained alive, and her tormentors died. Realizing their powerlessness, the Inquisition eventually called for help from a sorcerer, who performed a ritual that locked the demon inside the body of the seventh daughter. After this, the girl was taken from New England and buried. And more than 300 years later, a house was built there. It is unknown what they tried to do with the discovered body, but the demon inside the girl woke up and demanded new blood. The open, but completely understandable ending makes it clear: it is impossible to destroy the ancient evil. At least for now.

the witch seeks revenge

Similar films

Here are several films similar in meaning and plot to The Autopsy of Jane Doe:

  • “The Conjuring” (USA, 2013). Detectives Ed and Lorraine Warren are investigating paranormal cases. One day, a family terrorized by an evil spirit turns to them for help.
  • “Oculus” (USA, 2013). Brother and sister are trying to destroy the evil spirit that killed their parents many years ago.
  • “The Blair Witch Project” (USA, 1999). Several students come to the forest in the Black Hills to make a film about a character from scary local tales. It soon becomes clear that the folklore character actually existed.
  • “Cadaver” (USA, 2018). Former police officer Megan Reed, who works at the morgue at night, is trying to establish the cause of death of a girl recently brought there.
  • “The Lazarus Effect” (USA, 2013). Scientists are trying to uncover the secret of resurrecting the dead. When they succeed, they are not at all happy with the result.
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