Karl Mueller’s “Mr. Jones” is something of a hybrid mess. It wants to be a combination of a found-footage film, a “cabin in the woods” movie, a pseudo-documentary, and a supernatural thriller, but what Mueller ends up creating instead is a train wreck with a confused identity. It’s a pretty simple story of a couple, Scott (Jon Foster) and Penny (Sarah Jones), who go to a remote cabin so that he can make a nature documentary. They eventually discover that they are not alone in the wilderness when a mysterious hooded figure steals something of Scott’s. Their investigation brings them to a nearby house, where they find bizarre sculptures in the basement. After a daring escape, they flee back to their house, where Penny divulges that the mysterious person in question is actually a reclusive artist known as “Mr. Jones.” Since Scott has been having difficulty with his current documentary, they decide to switch topics and cover what they’ve found, causing Scott to fly back home and conduct interviews with art historians and others who have received works from the artist. When Scott finally returns to the cabin, it is decided that they need a better look at what’s in Mr. Jones’ basement, which, as you can probably guess, ends up being a very, very bad idea.
In his attempt to create something different, Mueller’s has made something that’s pretty similar to other bad horror movies of recent years. The main similarity here is the series of incredibly bad decisions and the complete illogic that goes along with them. Scott and Penny exploring the creepy house in the middle of nowhere is just the first step (in fact, I believe this is actually required by the Big Book of Horror Movie Clichés). However, the completely inexplicable decision to have Scott fly back home, leaving Penny behind with the creepy stranger just baffles the mind, as does the decision to sneak back into Mr. Jones’ house once more. Dumb decisions are to be expected in horror movies, but that doesn’t make them any less irritating when they occur.
The film’s biggest problems all occur in the final act, where everything seems to come apart at the seams. It is here where we learn that Mr. Jones is actually a guardian that keeps the worlds of reality and dreams apart, something that Scott messes up when he takes part of a sculpture from Mr. Jones’ basement. In these last few minutes, we are treated to incompetent direction, terrible editing, and a story that is almost entirely incomprehensible. Not that things were going particularly well for the film before, but Mueller makes absolutely certain to destroy what little coherence the film has up to that point. It’s well known that many directors try to break out using the horror genre because films of this type are relatively cheap and easy to make, but it really doesn’t help when the director doesn’t seem to know what they’re doing, a trait that can be seen all over this final act in particular. Mueller wants to do so much with these 80 brief minutes, but in the end, his reach simply exceeds his grasp.
“Mr. Jones” is presented in a 1.78:1, 1080p transfer that varies in quality throughout the film. Much of it is shown through cameras that the couple are using to film their little adventure, so quality is obviously going to be a little lower than normal for these scenes. When it comes to the final act though, the sub-par directing and editing make it hard to see what’s happening anyway, so it becomes a little difficult to tell if the picture is of decent quality or not. The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio is of fair quality. It’s a little low, but it’s nothing that a slight adjustment to the volume won’t fix. Afterwards, all sounds come through perfectly, giving you a decent experience.
There’s a shred of an interesting idea in “Mr. Jones,” but the film is far too unfocused, sloppy, and downright dull to leave any kind of impact. Mueller tries to be very ambitious, but in the process tries to cram too much into such a short film, resulting in a tangled mess of ideas that’s hampered by a bad screenplay and inept direction. Horror films may be relatively cheap, but as Mueller has no doubt discovered, making a good one is a whole different matter.
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