HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

MR. JONES -- DVD review by porfle

Throw in elements of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and PICKMAN'S MODEL along with a dash of the old Rod Serling/ "Night Gallery" vibe, shake furiously, and then bake for about half an hour too long,  and you'll have something similar to MR. JONES (2013).

It starts out like one of those "oh no, we're lost and getting loster" ordeals like the recent IN FEAR, until--surprise!--Scott (Jon Foster, PANDORUM) and Penny (Sarah Jones, "Sons Of Anarchy") actually find the place they're looking for.  It's a picturesque little love nest in the sticks where these young city dwellers hope to get away from it all while Scott soaks up inspiration for a nature documentary he's hoping to film.

Cabin fever and ennui quickly drag their good intentions down until the former lovebirds are almost at each other's throats. Until one day, they run across some strange "scarecrows" in the woods, and discover that a nearby neighbor is none other than the mysterious "Mr. Jones", a reclusive artist whose primitive work is highly sought-after by art galleries and who is known to mail his grotesque scarecrows to ordinary people, seemingly at random, who then report being strangely affected by them.

Suddenly Scott's documentary has a new and more sensational subject, but as curiosity gets the better of them, they end up finding out way more about Mr. Jones than they bargained for.  At this point, the BLAIR WITCH first-person-camera trope starts to make a little more sense storywise (although it never completely stops being somewhat awkward) as Scott and Penny venture into Mr. Jones' creepy shack in the woods and down into the dark, shadowy sub-level with its mazelike tunnels (shades of PICKMAN'S  MODEL). 

Before their fateful encounter with the wraithlike title character,  however, Scott makes a foray into the city to interview people about the enigmatic artist.  This gives director Karl Mueller (in his feature debut) the chance to include some additional faces including those of David Clennon (the dope-addled "Palmer" of John Carpenter's THE THING), Diane Neal ("NCIS", DIRTY MOVIE),  Stanley B. Herman (BLACK SWAN), and STAR TREK's ill-fated "Captain Robau",  Faran Tahir.  Their ominous testimony about Jones and his work, which is somehow related to the dark zone where reality and nightmares overlap, causes Scott to reconsider trying to get closer to him.

Meanwhile, Penny has stayed behind to keep an eye on things and has a much more personal encounter with both the art and the artist when she sees Mr. Jones putting up a few scarecrows in the forest at night.  This sequence and those within the subterranean maze, especially those involving Scott losing his way in the dark and hearing blood-curdling whispers and animal growls (this film's sound design is very well done), keep the first half of MR. JONES keenly compelling with the promise of some truly frightening developments to come.

Unfortunately, the whole thing begins to drag as the concept of the real world clashing with the nightmare world gives way to extended goofing-around montages and other cinematic confetti that is neither suspenseful, scary, nor particularly interesting in general.  Several effective moments surface amidst all of this, but not enough to sustain or reinforce the mood established earlier.  The final scenes are more tedious and confusing than scary, and ultimately anti-climactic as well when the most obvious "Night Gallery" ending drops into place with a thud.

Jon Foster and Sarah Jones give it their all and manage to make their characters both believable and sympathetic.  Writer-director Mueller, who also co-wrote the fine apocalyptic thriller THE DIVIDE, does his best to sell this tortured tale and almost pulls it off.  In fact, I can imagine some people enjoying it more than I did as long as they don't find some aspects as overly familiar and strenuously overdone. 

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  No extras.

The lead-up to Scott and Penny's final encounter with MR. JONES is atmospheric and intriguing, with an initial premise that had my imagination a-flitter with expectations.  The movie didn't quite fulfill them, but heck, since I've seen way worse than this earnest effort I just can't resist giving it a partial recommendation.

Buy it at


No comments: