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Mr. Jones (2013)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/6/2013
All Ratings out of
Extras: No Extras
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/30/2014
In my recent review for Devil's Due, I mentioned the fact that the "found footage" sub-genre of horror films is desperately in need of new blood. After all of theParanormal Activity films and entries such as the V/H/S series, these movies have gotten very stale and stagnant. Despite the fact that the movies are now more technically proficient (the camerawork isn't as jerky and CGI is seamlessly inserted), the stories remain rather pedestrian and weak. Mr. Jones tries to bring something new to the genre, with a story which certainly doesn't fall in line with the Paranormal Activity clones. But, the movie also reinforces that one must before for what they wish.
As Mr. Jones opens, Scott (Jon Foster) and Penny (Sarah Jones) leave their home in the city and travel into the wilderness so that Scott can work on a nature documentary. And while environment (which includes both a forest and a dessert) is gorgeous, Scott does not feel inspired to work and he spends a lot of time lounging in a hammock. (Who is he, Homer Simpson?) One day, a shadowy figure makes off with Scott's backpack, and he gives chase. He finds himself at a ramshackle house, which is missing one wall. However, while exploring the basement, Scott discovers odd, tribal-looking scarecrows and other folk art. Upon returning to their house, he reports this to Penny, who immediately figures out that the pieces are the work of Mr. Jones, a reclusive artist who no one has ever met. Scott decides to shift the focus of his documentary to Mr. Jones. After traveling to New York to interview some art experts, Scott returns to Penny, only to learn that Mr. Jones is hiding a secret which contains dark powers and nightmares.
There's nothing better than coming across a heretofore unknown film that grabs your attention. That's certainly what happened with Mr. Jones. In the first few minutes, Writer/Director Karl Mueller does his best to infuse some visual artistry into the "found footage" genre, as we watch Scott and Penny lay about their property. This segment of the film also easily introduces the central premise -- we learn why they are there, and in one spooky shot, we learn that they aren't alone. This intriguing opening is enhanced by the next session of the movie, which brings in the idea that they are living near a mysterious and reclusive artist. Weird artists certainly aren't new to movies, but this is an original concept for a "found footage" movie and Mr. Jones' art certainly brings a spooky mood to film. (Truth be told, I found the condition of his house to be more disturbing.) And it makes perfect sense that Scott would want to document the fact that they'd found Mr. Jones.
However, things really fall apart in the film's second half, once Scott returns from his research journey. As the movie begins to reveal more about who Mr. Jones is and what his purpose is, the narrative suffers. Mr. Jones makes the mistake of wandering into Stephen King territory in the third act. What do I mean by that? If you've read King's work, then you know that some of his books get very loose and abstract in the final pages (I'm looking at you It and Insomnia), which can make things very confusing. The same thing happens here. The movie makes the odd choice of suddenly throwing several new ideas at us, while also shutting down at the same time. We are treated to several long passages which contain no expositional dialogue, just a lot of sound effects, mostly things banging on doors. (It was at this point that I noticed that my wife had stopped watching the movie, claiming that it was "just noise".) This portion of the film also makes the very odd choice of stopping the "found footage" aspect for a time. Or at least that how it looked to me. There were many shots which were certainly not coming from the cameras established earlier in the movie.
There's nothing worse than watching a movie unravel, but that's the case with Mr. Jones. The movie draws us in with it's interesting premise and inspired production design (someone did a great job in setting up Mr. Jones' basement), but it can't make good on these promises. I feel certain that Mueller didn't mean for the finale to become inscrutable and it all probably worked on paper, but the end result is too muddled for its own good. The fact that Sarah Jones' (who you may recognized from the short-lived show Alcatraz) is shaky doesn't help either. Perhaps with Mueller's next work he'll be able to make a film which works all the way to the end.
Mr. Jones gets lost in its own maze on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material, save for the video noise inherent in this kind of movie. The clarity of the image gives it a nice amount of depth, as the foreground and background are clearly separate. The level of detail is also good, as we can make out textures on objects. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The first thing that you'll notice about this track is that it's not kidding about the subwoofer action. The "just noise" phase offers palpable bass which rattles the walls. The stereo and surround sound effects are nicely done as well. They really come into play during the third act, when whispering voices envelope the viewer from the front and rear channels.
The Mr. Jones Blu-ray Disc contains no extra features.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long