Autopsy (2008)

poster2I watched this last night, and I’m still unsure what to make of it. Was it good? Bad? Cheesy? Impressive? I seriously have NO idea…but I’ll try to write a review of it anyway.

When I first read about Autopsy, the plot seemed simple: a girl looks for her boyfriend after her and her friends end up at a scary kind of hospital. She soon finds that this is a very different kind of hospital. But when I actually watched the movie the expanded plot became quite a bit more confusing:

Five young adults hit up what appears to be Mardi Gras at their after grad party…the opening sequence consists of a number of photographs taken of them drinking heartily, partying, smoking up, and all that other fun stuff kids get up to in New Orleans. As they are driving home in the wee hours of the morning (completely loaded, of course), they crash on a deserted highway in the middle of Nowhere, Louisiana. They are understandably shaken up and upset. But what’s this? There is also a bloody man underneath the car wearing a hospital gown. He is obviously the worse for wear, and manages to spew a disgusting amount of blood onto Jude’s (Ross McCall) face. Suddenly, out of nowhere an ambulance appears and two grim-faced ‘paramedics’ (who look like they stepped out of a maximum security prison) step out, unceremoniously load the poor old guy onto a stretcher, then convince the teens to get in the ambulance with them.

The ambulance unloads them at the dimly-lit, extremely unbusy emergency room of Mercy Hospital. The raging, dying man is wheeled off somewhere and the kids are left with the primly dressed Nurse Marian (Jenette Goldstein) in what seems like an homage to Nurse Ratchett of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s nest. ratchett-marianJude is trying desperately to get a doctor to look at him, as he apparently swallowed a goodish amount of the old man’s blood, but Nurse Marian tells him they have been running a skeleton crew since Katrina and that he just needs to wait. This adds to the frustration of seeing his ex girlfriend Clare (Ashley Schneider) comforted by a Russian named Dmitryi (Arcady Golubovich). They seemed to have met while they were partying and he ended up in the car with them…somehow.

Meanwhile, Emily (Jessica Lowndes) notices that her boyfriend Bobby (Ross Kohn) is bleeding out of the side of his stomach. He assures her it’s nothing, but she brings it to Nurse Marian’s attention by lifting his shirt and revealing a piece of glass lodged in his side. The Nurse tells him he needs to have that looked at, and again he says it’s nothing and proceeds to start pulling it out. However, this is no ordinary splinter of glass. He just keeps pulling and pulling and pulling, until it’s revealed that he had a six-inch spike basically embedded in his appendix. At this point I was expecting some blood to start gushing out, or at least a bit of gore (the buildup certainly made me want to see something), but instead Bobby just looks at what was in his stomach and begins freaking out. Travis (Michael Bowen), one of the orderlies/paramedics comes in with a stretcher and whisks Bobby away while Nurse Marian holds Emily back, admonishing her to stay put. Finally, Emily is told to see Dr. Benway (Robert Patrick). Of course, rather than leading Emily to the doctor, the nurse simply tells her where she should go…obviously so that Emily can spend a lot of time wandering around the spooky hospital.

Jude, the Rancid-T-shirt-wearing bad-ass, has gotten tired of waiting around for the doctor to come and wanders away to the bathroom. While there, the other orderly Scott (Robert LaSardo) finds him smoking a joint. Rather than giving him hell for smoking pot in a hospital, he leads Jude to the pharmaceutical room, telling him he can take his pick of drugs. Because he wears a Rancid T-shirt, Jude obviously is down with doing pharmaceuticals and eventually settles on something that “hasn’t even been approved by the FDA yet.” Jude downs a pill and is lead to a second room, on the pretense of seeing the orderly’s lounge. Instead, the orderly locks him in an autopsy room with a body bag and several sharp instruments and leaves him to trip out.

vlcsnap-195024Dmitriy is the next to be led away to an exam room. I have to note that even by this point, we don’t have much idea of what’s going on…only that something evil and sickening is awaiting each of these people. Something certainly does await Dmitriy…he is first horrified by something in the next bed dripping huge amounts of blood before being whisked away by the sadistic Travis. The next time we see Dmitriy he is under the knife, having a major organ removed from his body and put on ice…for some reason.

Jude is having a hell of a trip. After realizing he was locked in a strange room containing a body bag, he curls up in a corner and begins hallucinating. He soon begins to see the body bag breathing and moving, and thinking it’s part of his trip, he gets up to investigate it…at which point a zombie hand grabs for him. He curls back up in his corner and begins to go crazy.

vlcsnap-196183Clare is the last to be taken. We are not sure exactly what happens to her though…she is left alone in the waiting room and eventually answers the phone ringing on Nurse Marian’s desk. After hearing some strange, slobbery voices coming through the phone she does what anyone else would do in that situation and wanders around the hospital, trying to find the origin of the phone call. For some strange reason she decides to enter the room of a severely anorexic being and is subsequently attacked by a naked unknown person (that’s what you get for snooping). For some even stranger reason she rips open the person’s stomach and is treated to a shower of intestines falling on her (that’s what you get for opening someone’s stomach). She runs screaming from the room and is instantly punched unconscious by Travis.

Meanwhile, Emily sees Dr. Benway and has a semi-confessional conversation with him about how she dropped out of medical school. She learns of his prior achievements in the field of transplant surgery, which begins to shed some light on what might be happening here. She also learns that Dr. Benway’s wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer, but due to a breakthrough treatment she is actually getting better and he is planning a trip to Italy with her soon. He then steals some of Emily spinal fluid and determines (in a really disgusting way) it to be fine for what he needs, whatever it is he needs it for. He then sends leaves the office, locking the door behind him. Emily manages to escape with the help of some surgical equipment.

We next see Clare being bashed on the head with a hatchet by Travis in the orderly lounge while Scott looks on with some boredom. Travis is taking great pleasure in this, and we find out that not only do these two look like they stepped out of a maximum security prison, they actually have. Their conversation reinforces the notion that was beginning to inkle in our mind, and that is Dr. Benway is somehow using people for his experiments to keep his beloved wife alive.

Once we realize this, the movie becomes more and more bizarre. Emily finally find Jude in the autopsy room, who has resorted to slicing himself up with a scalpel, and the two of them decide to try and find Bobby together. On their way, they see Dr. Benway and Nurse Marian prepping Clare for something. Unfortunately, Clare dies in the middle of this and the doctor and nurse leave in disgust. After they’ve gone, Emily and Jude look in to find that the back of Clare’s head is completely bashed in. Jude decides he wants to look after his own fate then and leaves Emily to find Bobby herself.

Emily happens to see Scott sanding the fingerprints off a hand in a blood-spattered room full of gore. What appears to be various body parts are on a table in front of him. Emily spots a cell phone and manages to steal it, running into the security office to dial 911, and we find that the hospital has been closed for several years. Travis comes in during her call and she is forced to hang up. Then when Nurse Marian phones the cell, she attempts to place it on the floor. Travis answers and finds out that Emily is missing. No dunce, this Travis. He cleverly hides in a closet and manages to capture Emily. She escapes again and runs down to the lobby, where a police officer (Eric F. Adams) is standing outside to investigate the 911 call. Emily manages to convince the officer she’s not the crazy psych patient Travis is making her out to be and even gets the officer upstairs to look at Clare. However, Clare is gone by this time and the officer is about to leave when Scott walks into the hallway with the tray of body parts. Needless to say, the policeman is disposed of quickly and Emily is recaptured.

vlcsnap-199741She finds herself strapped to an operating table, about to receive a lobotomy from Dr. Benway. Unfortunately, Dr. Benway’s manual skull drill is a bit outdated…this is possibly the most painful part to watch. He attempts to drill into her skull a few times before getting frustrated and telling Nurse Marian to get him an electric drill. They both leave Travis to ‘watch over’ Emily while they look for better tools. We’ve already seen the sadistic side of Travis, but this just makes it worse. First he thinks it would be fun to dig in the three-inch deep hole the drill had already made with his finger. He does this a couple of times, enjoying the way Emily screams, before taking some type of antiseptic and pouring it into the wound. When she screams some more he begins belting her in the face, then punching her in the stomach so hard she begins vomiting. As Travis looks around for something even more interesting to maim Emily with, she manages to escape her straps and gets him back in an extremely gruesome face-bashing, thus ending the saga of Travis forever. As we simultaneously cheer and whither in disgust, Emily flees.

She runs into Jude on the way, who can’t seem to find his way out. They lock themselves in the pharmaceutical room, where there happens to be a large amount of nitrous oxide. Jude gets Emily to leave and then sacrifices himself by blowing the room up, taking Dr. Benway and Scott with him. My favorite part here is the poorly edited, lost, sad few frames in the middle of the explosion. Watch for it.

Thinking she’s finally free, Emily tries to find her way out. You’d think after the amount of running around the hospital she’s done by now she’d have a pretty good understanding of the layout. Anyway, she happens across the sacred room occupied by Dr. Benway’s wife. Curious, she walks in and comes across a zombiefied corpse of a woman sleeping. The woman wakes suddenly and gasps, but seems to pose no threat. Emily sees a tube full of suspicious yellowish fluid is what is keeping this woman alive. She follows the tube to a panel of instruments with more tubes, and follows this to another room, where she finally finds her love Bobby, who is miraculously still alive.

vlcsnap-204204I won’t spoil this for you. I’m not going to tell you exactly how Bobby was keeping this woman alive. Suffice to say that with the arrangement of things, Bobby should not have been alive either. Emily comes to the sad realization that she needs to end his life (there was absolutely no way she could get him out of there without some creative remodeling). She tells him to think of them and their love, and then flicks the switch. This in turn adds some weird sludge to Mrs. Benway’s life fluid (but doesn’t outright kill her, go figure). Emily barely has time to mourn the loss of her beloved before Nurse Marian comes after her with a cleaver. In a show a bravado, Emily wrestles Nurse to the ground and cuts her arm off with the cleaver, allowing her to bleed out (although in all honesty, a real nurse could have gotten up and wrapped her own arm and lived, very easily).

Finally, Emily is free to go. But instead of allowing the terminal cancer patient who was being kept alive by Emily’s now dead boyfriend to perish all on her own, Emily decides to stop and pay her one last visit. She feels the need to taunt her for a while (“It’s your fault everyone is dead.”…rather than, “It’s your insane husband’s fault everyone’s dead.”) which ends up hurting her in the long run…because Dr. Benway wasn’t killed in the explosion, merely maimed. The minute she sees him, she drives the cleaver into his wife’s face and then fights him. In a rather anticlimactic ending, she manages to kill him by stabbing him in the temple with a needle, and we see her giving herself stitches while Dr. Benway lies dead on an operating table.

Like I said…very anticlimactic.

Ummm…again. Even after writing all that I still don’t know what I thought of this movie. Obviously I found some of the plotlines and characters cheesy and cliché, but the movie itself was somewhat kind of good.

The overall plot/storyline was fairly decent. If made with a bigger (or well-maintined) budget, this movie would have been exceptional. But this movie obviously borrowed from a lot of other horror film plots to fill in some subplots. From the beginning (people stranded on a deserted highway after a car crash), to the crazy doctor attempting to play God by using others’ body parts (Frankenstein, anyone?), to the equally crazy and forcefully loyal nurse…the people getting picked off one-by-one, etc. Everything about this movie has been seen elsewhere and ends up looking like a hodgepodge of incoherent plotlines. The word ‘plot’ has now lost its meaning. Moving on…

I have to admit, there were actually quite a few parts that made me jump and feel scared, mostly because I was not expecting them. This rarely happens when I watch horror movies. Unfortunately, most of these parts were obviously forced in for that exact reason, as there is no other explanation for them. Why was there a weird old man under the car at the beginning of the movie? So a scary arm can shoot out unexpectedly and grab someone, making you jump. Why is there a naked man in the hospital room? So he can attack Clare, allow for some intestinal gore, and make you jump. Why didn’t Mrs. Benway just die, if Bobby was keeping her awake. So she could open her eyes wide and gasp, making you jump.

Other than Emily, I don’t think the actors had any real grasp of their characters. This is due mostly to the fact that the characters were either so obviously over the top (Jude – the badass, troubled, asshole drug doer; Travis – the sadistic ex-con) or so underdeveloped (Clare – the idiot who steps into her own grave), there wasn’t much for them to grasp. The ‘love’ between Emily and Bobby is so unbelievable I wondered why she spent so much time trying to find him rather than fear for her own safety. Of course, she is just a girl. Dr. Benway was the typical insane doctor with cold, dead eyes. Nurse Marian was just annoying. She was too old and looked as though she stepped right out of the sixties. Also suffice to note she was the only one with a drawling accent.

What also confused me was seeing the odd patient wandering around the hospital, looking wiped and dejected. I thought they might have some intrinsic meaning to the plot, but they didn’t. I assume they were former ‘patients’ of Dr. Benway, but seeing how Dr. Benway manages to kill everyone (and if not him, then Travis sure enjoys going for it), that couldn’t be a safe assumption. Travis and Scott mention them very briefly, but not as a way of explaining their reason. Other than the creepy factor, there was absolutely no reason for the other patients to be there.

I mentioned this before, and I will mention it again…just by watching the movie I got a pretty good idea of the hospital’s layout. And, other than the fact that there seems to be only two ways out (one of which is locked), I don’t think I would have spent as much time running up and down stairs as Emily and Jude did when they were trying to get away. Or perhaps it was just because they in a different dimension. In one scene, Emily manages to run upstairs from the 3rd floor to the 1st. Quite a feat, if you ask me. The set was obviously very small, and it looks as though they only had a few rooms and a hallway to play with. I think some clever editing might have helped that situation a bit more.

One final note on the production quality that very nearly made me turn off the movie: the sound. There is a storm a-brewing outside when the group gets to the hospital. On a later exterior shot, we can see the storm is in full force. We can also HEAR it…very loudly. So loudly I had to turn my television down…only to turn it way back up again because I couldn’t quite hear anyone talking. Then in one scene in which Emily is walking through a hallway with multiple windows, it’s obvious the storm is still on. Very obvious…because we can HEAR it again. Possibly even more loudly, even though she’s inside. Volume down. She stops to talk to a strange patient. Volume up. CRACK!!! Volume down.

Levels, people…levels.

As I stated before, I think if this script could have gotten a better treatment, and the movie better actors, bigger budget, and a bigger production team it would have been quite excellent. It is hard to know whether or not someone intended to make a seriously scary horror movie, or a semi-spoof of one, judging from what is out now. Um…I’m going to go with the former and say in that case that this one failed.

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