One of the last horror films of 2016 might also be the year’s best. The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a horrifying supernatural thrill ride. Directed by Norwegian filmmaker André Øvredal who brought us Trollhunter in 2010, this new film is bloody, disturbing, and full of mystery. Jane Doe is a movie that unravels and reveals its secrets with each repeat viewing, and recently, the film’s star, Emile Hirsch, talked with us about it. The Autopsy of Jane Doe is currently in select theaters and available on VOD.
Fandom: Tell us about The Autopsy of Jane Doe.
Emile Hirsch: I would describe this as a scary movie about the mystery of a body that comes into a morgue, and the father and son team of coroners that are assigned to find the cause of death. The closer they get, the more horrifying the events around them become. It’s a thriller in a sense. There’s a certain mystery element. It’s kind of like a gorier and more creepy Sherlock Holmes with a supernatural element.
Fandom: The film is already getting rave reviews that it is one of the darkest and most disturbing movies of the year. What do you think horror fans are expecting from this?
Hirsch: A lot just due to the run the film has already had at festivals. It’s sort of a good thing and a bad thing in a way. It won Best Horror at Fantastic Fest, and it won the Special Jury Award at Sitges. It’s done really well at a bunch, and I think it was the runner-up for the Midnight Madness audience award.
When something comes in with that kind of rep, I feel like that’s good and bad, y’know? I do think a movie can sort of be overhyped, but I think it’s pretty freaky. I mean I was one of the people that worked on the haunted house, so it’s not the same experience for me watching it as it is for an audience. It’s much different.
When I first read the script, it was probably the closest experience I had to what the audience has connecting the scenes to the film for the first time. I found it genuinely freaky and really just kind of a page turner. Something scary but not cheap or sensational in terms of wringing out all the clichés. It was a little bit like Seven with all the clues and trying to figure it out with the younger cop and the older cop.
Even in that one scene where my character Austin asks Brian Cox’s character Tommy, “How do you even do something like this?” I remember shooting the scene and turning to Brian and André and saying, “This is like that scene in Seven where Brad Pitt asks Morgan Freeman, “Have you ever seen anything like this?” We were kind of laughing because of the similarity and dynamic of that scene and that circumstance. That’s a really masterful film, so I was very happy to be a part of something like that.
Fandom: You’ve done a lot of different kinds of films in your career. Have you always wanted to do a smart and dark horror movie?
Hirsch: Yeah, I like the idea of making different films. If somebody likes an actor, they don’t necessarily have to see the same genre of movies with that actor every time. I like the idea of switching it up because as an audience member myself, if there’s an actor I follow I wanna see different films come from them otherwise I get a little bit bored or I feel like I’ve already seen it.
I like the idea of switching up genres and keeping people on their toes. I like doing stuff that’s exciting that people want to see, even if it’s not necessarily a big-scale blockbuster. Even on a smaller scale, I like different things. I like comedies, horror, drama and sci-fi. I like a lot of different movies and sort of go for what I think is the best in every genre.
I love every genre almost equally. Every time I watch any genre that I see a great movie in I’m like, “Man, that was the best.” and then I’ll see something in another and think that’s amazing. I just saw Park Chan-Wook’s movie The Handmaiden last night and I was like, “Oh my god that’s so good. It’s a masterpiece.” It’s kind of this wacky, noir, erotica, weird, comedic and strange oddity of a movie and it’s three hours long, and I thought it was so good.
Fandom: On The Autopsy of Jane Doe you mentioned working with one of the greatest genre actors there is. Tell us about your time with Brian Cox.
Hirsch: Y’know Brian makes everything look so easy. You can’t even tell he’s working. It’s just like there are no false moves; he’s just so good. It’s a combination of a lot of talent and a lot of really amazing experience not just in film but also on stage. He’s had such an amazing stage career as well.
I was really blown away and honestly, Brian influenced the way I approach a lot of parts too. I remember he came on set the first day and we were just going to do a walkthrough. It was like he had the entire movie completely in his head. He was fully prepared to perform the film like it was a play right then and there, it was all just locked away upstairs.
That type of preparation and commitment to the scenes is just invaluable. I took that kind of really being prepared technique with me onto the next film that I did, and I found it really helpful. Cox helped show me when you know the material that well it just gives you this kind of playfulness and relaxed quality.
I think a lot of actors that are stiff in their roles maybe just don’t know the material that well. There’s a part of them that are just a little bit stiff because they’re just hoping they have it down at all. That was something that I learned from Cox. He is just a sweet man and a funny dude. I was really lucky to get to make a film with him.
Fandom: Are there any final words about the film you’d like to end on?
Hirsch: Yeah, I think The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a kind of uniquely scary movie. In a way, it’s somewhat like The Babadook, which is another movie I really enjoyed. It’s a quality horror movie that’s not boring. Sometimes you have these cache horror movies that are just schlock, but this I feel satisfies the genre requirements of being a thrill ride while being a bit more of a high brow affair.