Horror movies that start with the up-close dissection of a young woman’s naked body are just a little too common nowadays. And while this twisty little throat-grabber from ‘Trollhunter’ director André Øvredal may turn the image on its head by the final act, it does take just a little too much pleasure in its slicing and dicing.
Wielding the scalpel is small-town mortician Tommy Tilden (Brian Cox, the actor not the bedazzled physicist) and his son Austin (Emile Hirsch), who still isn’t sure if he wants to follow dad into the family business. The corpse they’re dissecting was found half-buried in a basement, apparently the victim of homicide. But there are no cuts on the body, no signs of injury, just a number of tattoos... on the inside of her skin.
It’s an intriguing setup, teased out in a smart script that balances the detailed nastiness of the autopsy with the mounting mystery of just how Jane Doe died. The performances are predictably strong, Cox and Hirsch finding a comfortable, bantering bond. Things get a bit nutty in the second half, and it’s hard to shake the discomfort as Øvredal’s camera lingers just a little too long on distressed, naked flesh. But overall, this is an enjoyable, compelling small-scale shocker.