Some horror flicks try to scare you, and others just go for the gut: Torture, gleeful mayhem, sudden jolts of shocking violence, and (of course) tons of blood, gore, and latex FX that are (almost) too icky to look at. Adam Gierasch's Autopsy is most assuredly the second type of horror movie. Oh sure, there's a decent amount of creepy atmosphere to be found in this hosptial-set gore-fest, but the flick isn't as interested in scaring us than having us chuckle at the audacity, yell at the characters, and cringe at all the gooey gore-works. So if you approach Autopsy with that in mind, there's just enough here to keep a loyal horror fan interested.
The plot, and that's me being nice, is this: Five friends run over someone and are taken to a virtually empty hospital, despite the fact that only one of 'em is actually hurt. The hallways are near-empty, but popping in and out of various rooms are a mean doctor, a pushy nurse, and a pair of orderlies who are clearly degenerates of the highest order. Despite all of this, the group quickly splinters off, which allows each person to get stabbed, skewered or sliced in only the most medically unsound and unpleasant fashions.
Before I pay some compliments, I must take exception with the flick's outrageously anemic screenplay. I fully get that this is not meant to be a plot-heavy horror tale or some sort of fascinatingly dark character piece -- but we need a little more from the story department than just "five idiots in a deserted hospital." In between the carnage and bloodshed we learn a little bit about the evil doctor and his sketchy plans ... but none of that stuff holds up for a second, nor do we ever get the impression that Gierasch really needs it to.
So if the flick is little more than a bunch of vaguely-related shock sequences, then we should probably focus on A) who's doing the shocking, and B) how effective are their techniques? Sorry to say that virtually none of the "innocents" on the screen are all that memorable. Aside from lead gal Jessica Lowndes, the non-insane characters are afforded maybe 1.4 personality traits apiece. In most horror movies, the eventual victims exist to give you an "in," to help you relate, or to feel their fear. In Autopsy, they're just meat-bags waiting to be sliced open.
Fortunately for genre fans, the ones doing the slicing are a pretty eclectic lot: The ridiculously evil doctor is played with over-the-top snarl by character actor extraordinaire Robert Patrick, and his right-hand nurse is played by none other than Jenette Goldstein (yes, the woman from Aliens and Near Dark). BONUS: As a pair of outrageously hateful killers, Michael Bowen and Robert LaSardo -- two actors you know, if not necessarily their names -- bring a strange sense of playfulness to a bunch of arcane sequences...
But the star of the flick is not Patrick or Lowndes. It's not a showcase for director Adam Gierasch or his frequent collaborator Jace Anderson. (Together they did The Toolbox Murders, The Mother of Tears and (my favorite) Crocodile 2: Death Roll.) No, the absolute star of this scrappy little Autopsy flick is the old-school special effects master Gary J. Tunnicliffe. Fans of the art of gore will no doubt delight in what Tunniclliffe has cooked up here. (Without spoiling anything, I'll just say that Autopsy, or at least the second half of Autopsy) is a non-stop parade of old-school practical gore -- with nothing in the way of plot, logic or sense to get in the way.
All in all, a dry set-up and a familiar setting, but once Autopsy gets moving with its strange sense of humor and its admirable devotion to old-fashioned, over-the-top, Fango-friendly gore-gasms ... I have no problem calling it a weekend rental for the horror fans who've seen it all.
(For the record -- my personal record -- the cream of the After Dark 3 crop are The Broken (a slick, quiet thriller that actually works), Dying Breed (a familiar story told with grit and grunge), and then Autopsy, for the reasons mentioned above. If you're popping in any of the other five -- (From Within, Perkins' 14, Voices, Butterfly Effect 3, or Slaughter) -- well, don't say I didn't warn you. Because I just did.)