This is a suspense-horror film about the body of an unidentified woman brought in for an autopsy. As the two lead characters perform the autopsy, they find one strange thing after another. The film’s directed by André Øvredal. Olwen Kelly, an Irish model, plays the role of the eerie-but-beautiful corpse. Give the movie a watch, it has a few good chilly moments. If you liked Oculus or The Wind, you’ll like this one. Here’s the plot and ending of the film The Autopsy Of Jane Doe explained, spoilers ahead!
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Here are links to the key aspects of the movie:
The Autopsy Of Jane Doe: Setting The Context
Tommy Tilden – The dad
Austin Tilden – The son
Emma – The son’s girlfriend
Jane Doe – The corpse
Let’s go directly to the main question…
Who is Jane Doe? Long Story Short
Here’s the thing. Over the course of the findings of Tommy and Austin, they conclude that Jane is not a body from the current era. She is the body of a witch who is from the 17th century. Tommy also concludes that witches didn’t exist and most young girls who were burnt were innocent and it was merely mass hysteria of the people of the time. Then how is Jane a witch if they didn’t exist? Jane wasn’t merely burnt like suspected witches were. Jane was tortured. She had her tongue cut out, a tooth removed and forced down her mouth, poisoned, ankles and wrists broken, skin flayed with ritualistic markings, lungs burnt, and her insides lacerated. This torture was inflicted on this girl in the 17th century. Tommy’s theory is that the very ritual of attempting to kill a witch gave birth to a witch instead. Jane was a regular girl and the ritual is the one that resulted in a witch.
What does Jane want?
With that much done to her, Jane is now a witch but is barely alive. Some form of energy is keeping her system alive. We are shown that there is cellular activity in the piece of brain they examine. We are also shown blood flowing out of her as if from a fresh corpse. This energy that is keeping her alive is not sufficient to animate her yet. Jane’s body, over the centuries, has been “found” accidentally by people. And unsuspecting people like Tommy and Austin (or the house where Jane is found at the start of the film) are merely in her path and get killed. Jane is able to resurrect herself in small amounts each time she kills people. Eventually, her “energy” or “life force” will be sufficient to become animated once again. That is when humanity is really screwed. The film doesn’t go that far. At the end, we are shown Jane’s toe to be moving and this is the very first movement we are ever shown. This leads to the possible theory that eventually Jane will be up and about.
The Autopsy Of Jane Doe: Plot Explanation
Right, now that we got that out of the way, let’s walk through the plot. Jane’s body is found half-buried mysteriously at the scene of a homicide of a Paul and Carol. There is also an Alvarez, a worker, who has died. The cops think Alvarez did it and needed a place to dump Jane’s body. In the process, they all end up dead. There is no sign of forced entry. It looks like the dead folks were trying to break out. In reality, Jane caused a series of events that finally lead to the death of Alvarez, Paul and Carol. How did Jane’s body get to the basement of their house? We don’t know this. We are not told. Perhaps it laid buried there for decades and by mistake, it got excavated. Remember, Jane is not animated, her body doesn’t move on its own. She has the power to create illusions but can’t physically move around.
Jane’s body is brought to Tommy and Austin for an autopsy. Austin initially plans to go out with his girlfriend Emma but postpones the plan by a couple of hours to help his dad with the autopsy. Emma leaves. A quick history about Tommy and Austin – Austin’s mom, Tommy’s wife, dies due to depression. Tommy doesn’t realize she was in depression. Emma has access to the morgue, she uses an extra key in the elevator.
Well, this is a nicely used (a little overused) element in the movie. Historically, there used to be a time it was hard to tell a comatose person from a dead one. So coroners tied bells to everybody in the morgue. So if they heard a ‘ting’ they knew somebody down there wasn’t quite ready to go. Tommy says he’s a bit of a traditionalist and he ties the bells to dead bodies even if they have had their face shot off.
- As they start, you can hear the radio saying “We’ve got some beautiful weather here for the next few days”.
- There are no external wounds on Jane. Her eyes have clouding that suggests she’s been dead for days but there is no rigor mortis.
- Her waist is smaller than her frame. She’s from the 17th century when corsets were worn by women to ensure smaller waists. This has nothing to do with torture.
- Her wrists and ankles are broken but there are no outward signs.
- There is peat under her nails and in her hair. Peat is found in the north. So she doesn’t seem to have been killed in their locality.
- Her tongue has been cut out, crudely.
- She has a lower molar tooth missing. This they later find it inside her stomach in a cloth with ritualistic markings. She was forced to swallow her own tooth.
- Her privates have been tone up from the inside.
- She bleeds like a fresh corpse.
- Her lungs are burnt from the inside but no burn marks on the outside.
- Her organs are scarred from the inside but nothing on the outside.
- A Jimson weed is in her digestive track. It’s a Paralyzing agent. Jimson weed is from the north.
- The radio now says “Rain is expected to top three inches within the hour.” The radio that is being heard now is part of an illusion they are getting trapped in.
The summary is – Centuries ago, when Jane was alive, first they bound her. Then they ripped out her tongue, poisoned her, paralyzed her, forced her to swallow the cloth with her tooth. Then the cuts and the internal mutilation stabs. Then as if that wasn’t enough, they burned her. It was a human sacrifice.
The Radio in The Autopsy Of Jane Doe
The radio says “We’ve got a flash flood warning now in full effect. Trust me when I tell you, this is not a storm you wanna get caught in, folks.” – this right here is Jane warning Tommy and Austin to stop. Austin feels they need to leave but Tommy insists they continue because they have a deadline.
All the lights in the place explode. The morgue units are now open and the bodies are missing. They decide to make a run for it. The power is out so the elevator is not working. They try to exit by the stairs but the old sycamore tree has fallen on the exit door and they can’t leave. It’s raining outside quite heavily. Now, remember, there is no storm or rain outside. That part is an illusion. They are simply kept trapped in there by Jane.
Jane’s Moving Around
They run into their office and try to call the sheriff. They can’t get through. They hear a bell. The bell that was tied to the corpse. The corpse seems to be animated and moving. It bangs on the door. Tommy gets attacked by “something” which had the same eyes as Jane. They realize they are stuck in there with Jane and the evil she has brought along with her. The door is thrown open.
Fire Doesn’t Work
They head to the morgue to burn Jane’s body. As they try to leave they realized they have been locked in. As Austin tries to ax his way out, he sees one of the dead corpses on the other side of the door. In desperation, they throw flammable liquid on Jane and set her on fire. The fire spreads unnaturally to the ceiling and burns the camera. When they put out the fire they notice that the body has not been affected by the fire at all.
What happens to Emma in The Autopsy Of Jane Doe
For a short moment, the elevator power resumes. This is caused by Emma coming back to get Austin for her date. But neither Tommy nor Austin can see her because of the illusion that they are trapped in. They enter the elevator and try to leave but it gets stuck. They hear another bell sound approaching them. Looks like another corpse is approaching them. Tommy takes the axe and swings at the corpse. The corpse seems to only have been an illusion. It was actually Emma and Tommy axes her to death by mistake. Now here’s the thing, this entire thing could have been an illusion. In the end of the film, we aren’t shown the cops picking up a dead body of Emma or talking about her.
They decide to go back and finish the autopsy to find Jane’s cause of death. They feel this might end their nightmare. They leave Emma’s body there. The cremation furnace turns on and smoke covers the place. Tommy gets attacked again. Somehow Tommy is the one to get attacked. It’s like Jane is interested in inflicting the torture only on Tommy and not Austin. I’m not sure why. If anyone has a theory then please to comment below.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe: Ending Explained
They cut open her brain, take out a piece and notice that it’s still alive. There is some energy force keeping her alive. The number on the cloth leads Tommy to figure that witches were known to be killed back in the 17th century. But Tommy also says that witches were only a myth and it was mostly innocent girls who were killed. In the case of Jane, Tommy feels that the ritual performed on the innocent girl made her a witch. Now, though she is immobile, she wants her revenge. There is no special reason why Tommy and Austin have been chosen to face her wrath. They are simply on her path. Those who survived got rid of her and buried her as far away as possible. Others weren’t as lucky. Tommy says it won’t stop until .. and then he realizes that Jane is killing her way and slowly building her energy force. Every time she kills, she heals a little.
Tommy tells Jane to not hurt Austin and take him instead. Jane really juices Tommy’s life out of him. Tommy’s wrists and ankles break. Jane’s heals. Tommy starts bleeding. His lungs spew smoke. Jane’s cuts disappear and she starts becoming whole again. She’s feeding on Tommy to resurrect herself. Tommy is put through a lot of pain in the process. Note here that you don’t see Tommy’s tongue getting severed. He is still able to talk. He begs Austin to kill him. Austin does. He puts a knife in Tommy to end his suffering. We assume that it is all over. The lights come back on. The dead bodies return to their units. The illusions seem lifted.
Austin hears Burke screaming from the outside. He tells Austin that he’s sawing the tree that’s fallen on the door. He asks Austin to open up. Austin says he can’t. Remember, there was no storm. The tree never fell on the door. There is no Burke outside sawing the tree. It’s still part of the illusion that Austin is stuck in. Jane is not done. As Austin turns around and a dead Tommy is standing right behind him. Austin backs off and falls to his death. Jane does not promise anything to Tommy. She returns in kind everything that has been done to her. Remember, it is Austin who saws Jane’s skull open. In return, Austin dies by having his skull cracked open.
Jane Moves On
The next day the cops are investigating the scene of the apparent homicide. According to what they see, Jane’s body is intact and no autopsy has been done on her. Tommy, Austin and Emma are dead. Burke thinks that this is the same strange way he found Jane the first time around. The radio mentions that it has been 4 straight sunny days confirming that the rain was part of the illusion. Burke orders for Jane’s body to be taken to another county. In the ending of The Autopsy Of Jane Doe, were shown that as Jane’s body is being transported, her toe moves. This is the first time she has moved. Jane has slowly begun reanimating herself. She will keep doing this till she’s fully reanimated. After that, we can only assume that everyone is screwed!
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Barry is a technologist who helps start-ups build successful products. His love for movies and production has led him to write his well-received film explanation and analysis articles to help everyone appreciate the films better. He’s regularly available for a chat conversation on his website and consults on storyboarding from time to time.
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