Tuesday, October 13, 2009

October Horror-thon #13: "Autopsy" (2008)

All Emily (Jessica Lowndes) and her friends wanted to do was party their pants off at Mardi Gras. But plans change after they accidentally run over a man and accompany him to the hospital he came from. While waiting to get bandaged up themselves, however, the pals begin to notice something peculiar about the place. The orderlies are a shifty lot, the head nurse (Jenette Goldstein) demands they all stay put, and the congenial Dr. Benway (Robert Patrick) has a few strange tests he'd like to run. Unless you slept through the last century in horror, you can probably deduce that the hospital's staff has anything but maintaining your health in mind. In fact, the good doctor plans to use the kids in helping a loved one defy death, a fate that Emily and company grow closer to suffering as the night wears on.

Let me tell you about Adam Gierasch, otherwise known as the luckiest bastard in horror. With writing partner Jace Anderson, Gierasch has turned out some of the genre's crummiest scripts, while inexplicably collaborating with its biggest talent (penning one Dario Argento film and three Tobe Hooper projects). But with Autopsy, the time has come for Gierasch to fly solo with his directorial debut. What exactly does he give viewers with his first time at bat? The sort of derivative slasher flick that might as well come in cereal boxes at this point. Seeing as how Autopsy is never outright awful, I was ready to slap it on the wrist and move onto the next movie with equal apathy towards its content.

The more it progressed, though, the more my mind wandered and began pondering why mediocrity like this gets rewarded. Sure, there's plenty of gore (including one whopper of a set piece), but is that the true measure of a horror flick? Shouldn't building up suspense and telling a tight story take precedence over nauseating your audience? Autopsy is a banal stalk-and-slash scenario you've seen countless times (complete with the obligatory set-up for a sequel I really hope never comes), which Gierasch can't even summon enough sense to execute with any style. In fact, with its premise of a mad doctor playing God, this story would've made a great Universal feature back in the day (and with one-eighth of the resources, to boot).

Autopsy gained some exposure as a selection for this year's After Dark Horrofest, but if released on its own, I doubt most folks would give it the time of day. I've seen flicks of a far worse overall quality than this (at least the acting here is somewhat competent) but hardly one that's as flat-out lazy. There's more to horror than just conjuring a batch of red dye and corn syrup, and with all the press he's been getting lately, let's hope Gierasch gets savvy to this pronto.

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