AUTOPSY will ultimately prove to be the film that redeems Adam Gierasch and Jace Anderson. After writing several high profile horror projects over the last few years that split audiences down the middle, MOTHER OF TEARS and TOOLBOX MURDERS among them, Gierasch decided to add directing to his resume with AUTOPSY, a solid low-budget horror effort, which he co-wrote with Anderson and journalist E.L. Katz (POP SKULL).
The beauty of AUTOPSY is that it accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do: be a fun, fast-paced slasher film that successfully melds several different styles together. The story centers on five teenagers who, after surviving a car accident and finding a dying man under their vehicle, are taken to an empty hospital in the outskirts of New Orleans. My biggest problem with the film occurs early on, when, after inquiring about why there are only four workers at Mercy Hospital, none of the teenagers are unsatisfied with the response of, “We’ve been short staffed since Katrina.” However, if you can buy into that, or just let it slide, you’re in for one hell of a bloody good time.
Dropping its “teenagers stranded in an ominous-looking building” routine, the film quickly becomes a fully-realized nightmare, as the characters venture into the hospital, one-by-one, for their post-accident examinations. The hospital becomes the most frightening character of the film, becoming this giant labyrinth where every dark corridor looks the same and there is almost no apparent hope of finding an exit, or survival. Gierasch, Anderson, and Katz could’ve played it cheap and filled the second act with jump-scares, but they opted to create some fairly tense moments instead, including one where the heroin, Emily (Jessica Lowndes), has to snatch a cell phone from under the nose of a homicidal orderly who’s sanding down fingertips in the hospital’s chop-shop.
Now, I’m not going lie and say this film doesn’t delve into familiar territory. Early on, we know which characters are cannon fodder and which aren’t, and that the film is going to heavily rely on hide-and-seek mechanics. It all serves a purpose, though, and amounts to some truly grisly death scenes, most notably a fire extinguisher face beating that does all but beat out IRREVERSIBLE’s famous scene.
If AUTOPSY would’ve traveled down the conventional path and delivered an ending that left me with a feeling of satisfaction, rather than captivation, I’d say it was dumb fun and leave it at that. But, it transforms into this really bizarre TALES FROM THE CRYPT episode, complete with a jaw-dropping Cronenbergian set piece and final moments that dish out the remaining characters’ just-desserts.
AUTOPSY plays with its clichés and delivers a fun experience that never lets up, filled with deliciously dark humor, and amazing gore and grue. Out of all the After Dark Horrorfest films, AUTOPSY, along with 2006’s THE ABANDONED, are the only entries that show some signs of ingenuity and effort, and manage to be worthy of your time and money.
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