Mr. Jones (2013)
★ / ★★★★
To support her boyfriend’s career, Penny (Sarah Jones) agrees to to live in a cabin in the woods so Scott (Jon Foster) can film a nature documentary. While shooting on top of sizable boulders, Scott’s backpack is stolen by a hooded figure. Eventually, the two find the thief’s home. No one appears to be around so they go inside. They end up in the basement which is full of scarecrows, bizarre artifacts, and paraphernalia.
Penny knows exactly whose home they had broken into. She believes that they are in the domicile of Mr. Jones (Mark Steger), a person thought to be responsible for sending totems to random people all over the world. His work is so revered, but no one has actually met him. Scott’s project takes a little detour.
Written and directed by Karl Mueller, “Mr. Jones” inflicts an almost unbearable experience to those willing enough—or foolish enough—to sit through it. For a horror picture, it lacks the requisite scares and storyline that should inspire the viewers to ask questions or watch in careful anticipation. By the end, especially when it toys with the idea of dreams and reality, it is reduced to an incomprehensible mess: Although there are images on the screen, we watch a whole lot of nothing. To worsen the situation, it dares to confuse us.
The performers do an adequate job playing their roles but they are not given the chance to really make something of their talents. The screenplay lacks originality and inspiration and so we visit familiar set-ups like a person having to go to a place of obvious danger or arguing over what to do next. Combine such tired scenes with the camera shaking about plus headache-inducing rapid cuts and shrill or sudden noises, we realize that every ingredient from the How to Make a Bad Horror Movie recipe has been put in the pot.
It is a surprise to me that this is the writer-director’s first movie because it lacks passion. Usually, a filmmaker’s debut has so much energy—like he or she has something to prove. This one, however, comes across listless. I would rather watch a picture that is all over the place in terms of style, tone, or script but has a few good ideas on its sleeve than one that is barely alive, recycled from already recycled junk.
The one quality in bad horror movies that I find unforgivable is never giving the audience a chance to see, absorb, and appreciate the supposedly scary thing that the characters are reacting to. The camera moves so quickly that all we see is darkness and shards of glass flying when windows break. There is a difference between keeping a figure hidden for the time being and having nothing at all there. The picture stays with the latter throughout so the viewer feels robbed not only of the experience but also of his time.
As a habit of saying at least one good thing when it comes to bad movies, I will say this: I liked how the title of the movie neither appears in the opening nor the closing credits. That’s about it. I’m out of compliments.