Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Autopsy (2008)

A hospital where the doors don't revolve

A group of 20-somethings--two gals, three guys--are reveling on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. They decide to drive back in their present state and not surprisingly crash into a tree "somewhere in Louisiana." Before the audience can say it, "Does anyone have a working phone?" "It doesn't matter. There's no signal." The budget shows with more pictures of their partying and only the after effects of the crash, rather than the actual impact. Somehow a man in a hospital gown is found underneath of their car. Out of nowhere an ambulance arrives moments later to take him away with a story that he escaped after surgery. They go along for possible aide themselves at the local facility called Mercy Hospital. There it plays on reassurances that it will all be okay, but soon turns from suspicious to then a means of survival because, that's right, this ain't gonna be a normal hospital folks.

The staff consists of four members--a nurse, two orderlies and a doctor--and they treat the newly arrived with stern attitude to distract them. It goes to show how far authority figures are trusted and can carry a command when a uniform is put on. No one's allowed to roam about or see a patient at the same time they're being examined, which leads to them becoming worried that something isn't right. One by one they're taken in and disappear to different rooms that reveal experiments and odd procedures. One of the woman named Emily, with a coincidental medical background and a questioning mind, sets about to find some answers to where her friends are and stumbles onto something that's inherent to mad science.

This is a horror story with people using medicine for evil and manipulative purposes, except they don't even try to make this a real possibility to put some paranoia into you when traveling about, or even a truly unique situation for that matter. New Orleans--might as well have been herd farmers and a shack in Mongolia. The innocent characters are thrust into "some" place, with "some" random people who all share the "same" morbid disposition. It also includes the same ol' characters that represent a body count or have to survive from some horrible and unexplainable situation they've found themselves in, except with some kind of cheap twist that momentarily changes the convention around but makes even less sense as the rest of the story. The experience just unfolds so middle of the road without even a steady subtext that it causes itself to drag its feet along rather than be on top of itself.

"Autopsy" is quite an easy film to the point--I'd imagine to a share of people--of not holding up past the first viewing. Not to mention this attempts to take itself more seriously instead of sustaining the tongue-in-cheek humor for the far-fetched and ridiculous storyline they're working with. There are a few jokes here and there but it's not to the point of making anyone roll on their side anytime soon or in the way of performing miraculous CPR to revive the picture (sorry, had to). How the story itself unfolds feels a little too hokey and over-the-top in a forced way. The out-of-reach location and overly sadistic villains that enjoy what they do a little too much makes it feel less likely to happen to you than getting struck by lightning. If this is fun, it's in the context of solely making fun of it. What they don't show you brings down the credibility of the story, such as the hospital having full use of utilities. Not to mention some of the motivations seem exaggerated to the point of not adding up, such as being on a hallucinogenic drug, unconsciously performing self-mutilation and then in the next scene being able to speak lucidly and with reason.

Its moments of scares feel somewhat forced with lightning and rain and random people popping in and out of rooms with a loud sound effect to jar senses. There are some rewarding moments where the bad guys get it in just as cruel ways as they dealt out originally. It's not exactly challenging stuff with a black and white template that makes answers--such as necessary violence to protect yourself and friends--easier to solve and digest. Some of the gore effects are a little on the cheaper side at points with some exposed guts coming out of stiff looking surrounding skin. Though there are some effectively grisly moments that range from amputation to a face caved in from blunt force. At one point towards the end there is an inventively maniacal contraption that consists of stringed together body parts.

The lead actress, Jessica Lowndes, is somewhat versatile in that she can be both tough, emotionally sympathetic and astute in character. She definitely takes it all out at points and goes beyond what was called for than treating this as a mere stepping stone, which makes it such a shame that her glowing talent was wasted on the overall turnout. Robert LaSardo takes his lines with a little more measurement, though the other bad guys, even the recognizable Robert Patrick as the head doctor, lack any kind of range to work with. Even "The Dentist" had a kind of philosophy, this just has card-board cut outs of evil medical professionals that do look the part but are only out to get people for some diabolical plan that's not even fully fleshed out. It closes with some questions of morality in which someone innocent who should have died is now living, but at the expense of others. Though quickly reverses its stance to give a little ambiguous shock value that seemed thrown in as an after thought.

Rating: 3/10

Director: Adam Gierasch (writer "Toolbox Murders," "Mortuary," "Mother of Tears")
Stars: Jessica Lowndes, Robert Patrick, Robert LaSardo
Link: IMDB

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