Wednesday, May 14, 2014

MR. JONES (2013) Blu-ray Review

Mr. Jones (2013) d. Karl Mueller (USA)

A young couple decide to drop out of society for a spell, retreating to a, wait for it, remote cabin in the woods where Scott (Jon Foster) plans to shoot the “ultimate nature documentary” with himself as the director/star. His inspiration is short-lived; the would-be auteur finds himself simply wandering around, sitting around, laying around, and just generally ticking off Penny (Sarah Jones) with his aimlessness. The discovery of a mysterious artist’s isolated abode, filled with terrifying scarecrow-like effigies, sparks visions of fame and fortune at sharing the notorious Salinger-esque hermit’s story, but some stories aren’t meant to be told....

One of the more frustrating indie efforts to emerge in a long time, Mr. Jones has so much initially going for it that when it stumbles, and boy, does it ever, it physically injured me. So many great ideas at play - including the appropriation of someone else’s art in order to create another individual’s legacy and the concept of necessary evil to combat greater evil - that are ill-served by the oh-so-lazy found-footage conceit. Even through Scott’s narcissistic lens, there is no logical reason for many of the shots, including the bone-headed narrative device of a camera that shoots both the subject and the operator at the same time. Why would you, as a documentarian, need to see your reaction shots to your own footage? Oh, wait, unless you were making a found-footage movie and wanted to have something to cut away to...over and over and over again. I’m calling bullshit. In fact, I literally called “BULLSHIT” to the television so many times over the 84-minute running time, my upstairs neighbor called to see if I was experiencing some early form of Tourette Syndrome.

And then, to further twist my bowels, writer/director Mueller simply abandons his found-footage conceit for the third act. With no explanation given, we’re suddenly afforded shots outside of the accounted-for lenses because it makes life easier to tell his (admittedly fascinating) story. I mean, COME ON. Some other reviewers have called this “surrealistic.” I call it “running out of ideas.”

I’m not prepared to completely dismiss Mr. Jones – in many ways, it reminds me of Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton’s similarly uneven 2010 effort Yellowbrickroad, so fans of that film might be willing to give it a try – but I’m also not willing to endorse it without major reservations. I think Mueller, screenwriter of Xavier Gens’ The Divide, absolutely has a future with his intelligent, high-concept plotlines and talent for creepy atmosphere. But this feels regrettably incomplete, a not-fully-gestated idea shoved into the world too soon.

Mr. Jones is available now on DVD and Blu-ray from Anchor Bay (no supplemental features) and can be ordered HERE.

--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine

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