New Review: Mr. Jones (2014)
Director: Karl Mueller
Cast: Jon Foster, Sarah Jones, Mark Steger
About thirty minutes into the horror movie Mr. Jones, my mind wondered to the scene from The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy first meets the Scarecrow and asks him, "How can you talk if you don't have a brain?" The Scarecrow's response is priceless: "I don't know, but some people without brains do an awful lot of talking. Don't they?" If the main characters of Mr. Jones are any indication, the answer to that question is an emphatic "Yes!" To say that the two main characters are as dumb as a bag of hammers is an insult to both bags and hammers, as well as the preposition "of." Think of the most inexplicably dumb decision a person can make given their situation, and chances are, they're going to make that decision.
The movie opens with a young city couple -- aspiring filmmaker Scott (Jon Foster) and his girlfriend Penny (Sarah Jones) -- heading off for an extended retreat in the mountains. Scott hopes to make a nature documentary, but it soon becomes apparent that he's put no thought into the project before they packed up and left. "A bird flew by," he says into the camera. "A squirrel ate a nut!" Penny gets frustrated with him because she left her job and her friends to go and help him with the movie. What's worse, he's stopped taking his pills! (What's he taking the pills for? Depression? ADD? Who knows.)
One day, Scott spots a mysterious hooded figure snatching one of his bags and walking off with it. Scott follows the figure to his dilapidated shack in the woods to retrieve the bag because Scott, for some unexplained reason, put the car keys inside the bag. He and Penny eventually discover that the hooded figure is none other than Mr. Jones (Mark Steger), a reclusive artist who's known for mailing people samples of his work. They break into his basement, and discover a gloomy catacombs -- filled with spider webs, candles, and evil looking scarecrows -- that looks like something out of the Crypt Keeper's nightmares. Mr. Jones nearly catches them down there, and as soon as they escape, Penny suggests that the best course of action will be to "get back down into that basement and take more pictures."
It seems that since Scott doesn't have a subject for his nature documentary, they think, Hey! Why not make a movie about the mysterious Mr. Jones? They don't know a thing about this guy. He could be good. He could be evil. He could be a blood thirsty psychopath. Scott doesn't even consider this when he hops a plane to Manhattan to start interviewing art experts, leaving Penny alone in the woods with Mr. Jones lurking nearby. When Scott returns, they break into his basement again, only this time Scott steals one of Mr. Jones's works of art because one of the experts told him a recent work of art from Mr. Jones would be worth oodles of cash.
It's here when things turn really bizarre. The dream world overlaps with the real world, they discover that Scott's dream self has been recording them all this time, and Scott sees many evil, laughing versions of Penny. It's obvious the filmmakers were looking to play mind games with the audiences, much like this year's vastly superior Oculus. The thing about Mike Flanagan's movie is that it was created with focus and imagination. It added up to something, and made for a haunting cinematic experience. In contrast, writer and director Karl Mueller throws in everything and the kitchen sink, hoping something sticks. Nothing does. It's confusing and frustrating, and Mueller's decision to cut to black every five minutes or so is especially annoying.
Even when it gets to the point when the characters can't trust their own senses, and they don't know if what they're seeing is real or not, they still manage to behave like idiots. There's one scene where they're in their cabin, and they hear someone (or something) banging violently on their front door. Scott walks up to the front door. Penny tells him not to open it, but Scott (God bless him) can't seem to help himself and opens it anyway. Then, when they're trapped in the house and all seems hopeless, what do these two do? They strip off their clothes and start making love. You never know. Maybe the evil outside their cabin is afraid of sex.
Much of Mr Jones is filmed like a found footage movie, what with Scott and Penny carrying a hand held camera around with them. The movie does has some fun with the cliches of the found footage genre. Usually, in movies like this, characters have to grab their cameras and start filming, even during events that aren't worthy of being filmed (this year's Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is loaded with scenes like that). In Mr. Jones, Penny grabs a camera and rushes to film....well, Scott peeing in the bushes. It's quite funny. A lot of the movie is, actually (unintentionally so).
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the movie is that it tells us nothing about the title character. He's not menacing or mysterious, and once the end credits finally roll, we still know nothing about the man. The movie's tag line says "If you see him coming...run!" If a movie-goer sees Mr. Jones for rent at the local Redbox, they would be wise to do the same.
Rated PG-13 for language, a random scene of sexuality, and some "frightening" images
Final Grade: * (out of ****)
What did you think of this movie? :)
Other thoughts on Mr. Jones (2014) :D
- Mr. Jones | Film Review | Slant Magazine
That it half succeeds, in spite of its cloying self-seriousness, means that it's at best a convincing copycat of a definitive expression of ego and influence in art.
- Mr. Jones (2013) [Blu-Ray] | Cinema Crazed - Celebrating Film Culture & Pop Culture
- Dustin Putman's Capsule Review - Mr. Jones (2014)
Mr. Jones (2014) - 2/4 Stars - In attempting to experiment with horror tropes and the found-footage format, director Karl Mueller tries too hard and walks away with a muddled, drastically uneven hodgepodge.
My other reviews! :)
- New Review: Godzilla (2014)
Not at all as epic as the trailers made it look, but still, it was fun.
- New Review: The Den (2014)
A refreshingly good (if very bloody) horror show! And to think, I watched this movie on my iPod! O.O
- New Review: Oculus (2014)
Filmmaker Mike Flanagan takes his 2006 short film Oculus: Chapter 3 - The Man with the Plan (co-scripted by Jeff Seidman), and turns it into a pretty compelling feature film!