If you want to know what A+ scary-movie directing looks like, it’s what André Øvredal (Trollhunters) delivers with this deliciously creepy mix of body horror and haunted-house spookfest. In the basement of their home/family mortuary, father-and-son coroners Tommy (Brian Cox) and Austin Tilden (Emile Hirsch) try to determine the cause of death of a mysterious unknown woman found at the scene of a mass homicide in a suburban Virginia home. Their progressively bizarre discoveries—a severed tongue; scars on her internal organs—point to something unsettling, but that’s not even the half of it. The set-up and character dynamics are minimal at best, leaving the focus almost entirely on the mystery and the Tildens’ increasing unease. And viewers will be right there with them, as Øvredal masterfully uses the dark corners of his setting, the haunting blank stare of Jane Doe and a sound design that ranges from shudder-inducing use of autopsy tools to the ominous tinkling of a bell. The climax almost seems doomed to be an anti-climax, but the middle third that be taught in film schools for how to turn atmosphere into delightful fright.
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