AUTOPSYLions Gate Films / After Dark Films

A group of recent college grads is taking a final vacation together when an accident leaves them hurt and stranded on a lonely Louisiana road. An ambulance arrives and takes them to Mercy Hospital, an eerie, half-empty place that harbors a chilling secret: a doctor conducting inhuman experiments on its helpless patients.

The thing I dig about watching independent horror movies is that, once in a while you stumble upon one that you initially think is going to be “meh”, but actually turns out to be better than expected. I don’t know if it has anything to do with going in with a much lower expectation than usual, and thus giving a low standard to shoot for, but in this case, I went into watching this particular entry in the 2008 After Dark Horrorfest expecting the standard torture pron type setup, where a bunch of twenty-somethings running afoul of a crazy doctor and his equally crazy staff looking to stock up on said twenty-somethings’ body parts in a human chop shop kinda setting, and…well, I got that, but Autopsy actually was a bit more entertaining.

The story opens with a brief montage of sorts introducing us all to the kill fodder: two couples and a Russian student at Mardi Gras (because of course it would begin there), getting snookered and then have a run-in with a telephone pole in the middle of nowhere, where they manage to get the “We have no cell phone signal!” trope out of the way immediately. They also notice there’s a guy in a hospital gown stuck in the wheel well of the car, but fortunately an ambulance shows up without having to be called upon to pick up the guy, and also the five drunken idiots to take to the hospital. How fortuitous. They arrive at the oddly empty hospital, where one by one they’re taken in to get looked at by the good doctor…who turns out to be an organ-harvesting Robert Patrick using his patients as experiments to find a way to save his terminally ill wife, just in time to take a cruise vacation. Can they escape the clutches of this madman and make it to freedom to find help? This is a horror movie, what do you think?

Yes, Autopsy may be another Crazy Doctor type slasher flick, but it’s the cast and characters that bring a bunch of charm to the table. First, we have the always awesome Robert Patrick as the crazy doctor himself, and he plays it understated enough to bring a bit of a chill to the roll. The only other actor I think could have pulled off the understated and chilling performance like that would have been . Also, the two orderlies, played by Michael Bowen and Robert LaSardo, bring kind of a sinister levity to the movie as well. And by that, I mean their characters are disarmingly approachable, despite the initial feeling of dread that they can switch to. Nicely played, actually. And the nurse has her charms as well. Really, the weakest parts were probably the five young adults who, let’s face it, were there for kill fodder. Even so, they worked much better with their material than I’ve seen in other films of this kind. As to the gore effects…well, let’s just say that there’s a scene near the end of the film where the phrase “human mobile” can be used, which I thought was rather imaginative and a bit touching, seeing as it was the guy’s girlfriend that found him strung up like that ultimately. Nicely done, really.

So, overall, Autopsy gets a good, solid Worth Checking Out some night, if you’re looking for a horror rental of some sort. If you’re into that kind of thing. Maybe not for the easily squeamish, or after eating a bunch of barbecue.