Mr. Jones ReviewJoe Shaffer
You probably expect me to start this review by saying that found-footage has run its course. Of course it hasn't. Rather, studios have begun to retread once-successful concepts to the point that the genre feels like its out of fuel. I think we--not only as horror fans, but as movie goers--should only be made to endure so many Paranormal Activity and Exorcist knockoffs. It would help if filmmakers and production companies would stop riding "gravy trains" leading to nowhere, cranking out endless apes of effective flicks that will ultimately be forgotten.
Of course, it would also be nice if risky, creative, and peculiar projects weren't mostly ignored and/or ineffective.
Enter Mr. Jones, an indie found-footage thriller about a wanna-be documentary filmmaker, Scott, who retreats from society along with his girlfriend, Penny, in the hopes of producing a nature film. While in the woods, he discovers an odd hermit who's quite fond of leaving ghastly totems all over the place. After some research, the director discovers that the masked man is known only as Mr. Jones, and that he has delivered many of his pieces to various parts of the world. While Scott's studies bring him to the conclusion that Jones is bad news, Penny begins to think that perhaps the isolated individual is working to protect humanity. Viewpoints clash, leading to a downward spiral that eventually sends everything to surrealist hell.
For about two-thirds of the movie, I felt like I had stumbled upon a diamond in the rough. There were plenty of eerie moments spent in the tenebrous woods, where voices and demonic calls sounded from the branches high above our heroes. The movie is more content with creeping you out with what you don't see rather than recycling stupid jump scares, visceral mayhem, and cliche kills we've seen in every Hollywood horror film since Scream. I always dig that in a fright flick.
The film is pretty good at setting up tense moments, too. Scott and Penny attempt to enter Mr. Jones's abode on a few occasions. Each time they hide for cover and scour in the darkened hallways of the caves beneath the man's cabin, unaware that he's coming closer to discovering their whereabouts. Though you want to believe that Penny is correct in assuming that his intentions are pure, there's always the sick, lingering doubt that maybe Scott's right and they're both in grave danger...
Eventually the movie hits a heavy point and the final act begins. You can tell things are about to get intense, so you bite you nails in anticipation and..... the picture slows to a creep...
Mr. Jones is in love with surrealist horror. Great, so am I! However, the movie's final act also trudges along in a tedious, dream-like state such that the pacing becomes too slack. Yeah, it befitting of the film's theme, but it doesn't exactly make for a harrowing climax. You get to that point and you just think, "This is it? This is your frantic, frightening conclusion?" You see a lot of Scott being chased by his doppelganger, Penny appearing and disappearing, random things flashing, scenes moving in slo-mo.... It's just such a tiring mess that you almost feel like the first two acts were for naught.
Mr. Jones isn't a terrible film. It's imaginative and it takes a bold leap outside of the found-footage box, but its shoddy, all-over-the-place ending coupled with an anticlimax at the end might leave you feeling like you were ripped off. It wouldn't be a bad idea to view the spine-tingling first two acts and then pass out on the couch when "other Scott" makes his appearance.
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