Autopsy (2009) – After Dark Horrorfest Review

autopsy-poster-copyWell, now we know where those looping entrails in Dario Argento’s MOTHER OF TEARS came from: co-writers Jace Anderson and Adam Gierasch. Working from a script co-written with E.L. Katz, Anderson and Gierasch serve up ten times as many internal organs in AUTOPSY – with about one-tenth the effectiveness. The set-up is so simple, and the gore so over-the-top, that the film (which was also directed by Gierasch) borders on genre parody. You’re not supposed to believe any of it, or relate to the characters, or care when they die; the whole enterprise is an exercise in imagining horrible images.
The “plot” has a bunch of kids on vacation n Louisiana, getting in a car accident. An ambulance conveniently shows up – too conveniently, considering the isolated road – and takes them to a hospital. Needless to say, not much healing will going on this night. Not only is the only doctor (Robert Patrick, still waiting for a call to appear in a TERMINATOR sequel) engaged in some extreme mad science; his assistants have their own personal peccadillos, which they like to enjoy before turning victims over experimental purposes.
In a way, AUTOPSY’s strength is also its weakness. After the kids arrive, they predictably split up, and each one finds him/herself in a little mini-movie, involving either the doctor or his assistants. This strategy allows Gierasch to serve up whatever horrible vignettes he can imagine, but it also fragments the film beyond the usual low standards for continuity in cheap cinema. (For example, our leading lady’s boyfriend goes missing almost immediately, but it takes her forever to track him down and learn his fate because the movie is too busy tossing bones and body parts at the viewer.)
Low point is the cliche scene wherein Emily (Jessica Lowndes) tries to convince a police officer, who answered her 911 call, of what is happening in the hospital. Accompanied by a hospital attendant who insists that Clare is a mental patient, Emily predictably leads the officer to a room where she saw her friend bleeding to death, and the room is predictably empty and clean. Unfortunately, the scene makes no sense. The hospital attendant’s leg is bleeding from a wound inflicted by Emily, but when the officer first arrives, the attendant says the blood is not his. All Emily has to do to prove him a liar is pull up his pant leg, but instead she rambles on like a crazy paranoiac, making herself sound exactly like what the attendant claims she is.
Ironically, the punchline for this scene is the best moment in the movie. Just when the officer has concluded that Emily is nuts, the hospital’s other homicidal attendant enters the scene, casually wheeling a gurney loaded with severed body parts. This is the one perfect moment of black humor in the film, and it probably clues us in to what the whole movie was supposed to feel like – sick, twisted, and funny. For the most part, it achieves the first two but not the third (although the moment when a character removes a “small” shard of glass from his skin – which turns out to be the size of a dagger – comes close).
The performances are pretty good under the circumstances, although Jenette Goldstein overdoes the Nurse Ratchet routine just a bit. Lowndes even works up a genuine bit of emotion during a pivotal moment that decides the fate of her boyfriend.
Then the movie climaxes with the traditional turning-the-tables final act, wherein our heroine levels the karma of all the bad dudes in the movie. The revenge is reasonably satisfying as far as these things go, albeit a bit muddled with last-minute surprises and villains who predictably come back after their apparent death.
But in a way, that is all supposed to be part of the fun AUTOPSY seems determined to hit the familiar notes for old time’s sake, and hopes its audience will enjoy the familiar tune.
The film’s biggest mystery – even bigger than how this staff of four runs a whole hospital (with working electricity even though the facility is officially closed) – is the title. Strictly speaking, there is no “autopsy” in the movie.

Jesscia Lowndes and Robert Patrick

AUTOPSY (2009). Directed by Adam Gierasch. Written by Jace Anderson & Adam Gierasch and E.L. Katz. Cast: Jessica Lowndes, Robert Patrick, Ashely Schneider, Michael Bowen, Jenette Goldstein, Arcadiy Golubovich, Ross Kohn, Robert LaSardo, Eric F. Adams.
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