Mr. Jones in an intriguing supernatural Horror movie written and directed by Karl Mueller; it employs “Found Footage” as well as straight forward filming techniques. I’ve got to be honest: The amazing DVD cover-art was all it took for me to buy this film for my collection—I didn’t even care what it was about.
Read my review after the jump.
Official Synopsis: Scott (Jon Foster) is a filmmaker in need of inspiration. He and his girlfriend Penny (Sarah Jones) move into a desolate house hoping to make a breakthrough. Then they discover their neighbor, the elusive Mr. Jones. Famous for his haunting sculptures, Mr. Jones has remained a mystery to the world. Scott and Penny, convinced that they have found the perfect film subject, sneak into his workshop and realize that their curiosity may have chilling consequences. Who is Mr. Jones?
Mr. Jones is another movie that can easily be divided into 3 Acts; the above synopsis is a summation of Act 1. We’re introduced to attractive young couple Scott and Penny who have just made a drastic lifestyle shift by moving into a desolate cabin in the woods. There reasons are complex; we’re told it’s an attempt to harness the creative energy necessary to create a compelling nature documentary, but Scott also mentions that it’s an opportunity for the couple to work on their relationship (obviously they’ve never seen the film Antichrist or they would have known better). We’re also informed that Scott had previously been medicated (for a condition we assume is mental) but stops taking his pills after the move.
While Scott and Penny couldn’t seem happier at the film’s onset, the subtext hints at some trouble brewing beneath the surface. Indeed, less than 2 months into their adventure, major cracks appear in there relationship; the isolation, the pressure to create, the lack of other distractions—these issues and others make for frayed nerves and increasingly adversarial interactions. They find the inspiration and distraction they need when they cross paths with the eerie and elusive Mr. Jones, a famous yet anonymous outsider artist shrouded in mystery.
Act 2 finds Scott off to New York to interview folks with a connection to Mr. Jones; he meets with art-dealers, reporters, historians, anthropologists—and one extremely disturbed and unnerving young man who offers Scott opaque insights along with ominous warnings. My only complaint about the 2nd Act is that it’s really too short. True, 2nd Acts are usually the least interesting in a 3 Act story, but not in the case of Mr. Jones. Extending the interviews would have gone a long way towards legitimizing the Mr. Jones mythology. I would have especially liked to have seen more interviewing with the creepy dude, the disturbed young man played by Ethan Sawyer. I’d even go so far as to say that this character could have had a much more important roll in the film. Sawyer portrays a man just barely holding his shit together, hanging by a thread over an abyss of madness. Even if he never reached a manic state, his deeply measured control juxtaposed against the barely-contained terror in his eyes makes him a powerful onscreen presence.
Another reason I believe Act 2 was too short is because Act 3 is way too long. Scott returns from New York to find a nightmare world encroaching on his reality. An attempt to finish their documentary finds Scott and Penny thrust into a dimension of endless night; doppelgangers lurk in the periphery and time-loops confound the mind. It’s clear to me that Mueller is a fan of David Lynch and a practitioner of his methods. Unfortunately, like the 3rd Acts of some of Lynch’s less impactful films, Mr. Jones becomes so bizarre, so surreal, so otherworldly that it’s almost nonsensical. While the subtext is strong, even compelling, the experience is less viewer-friendly and, eventually, just dull.
Like the cover-art I mentioned up top, all of the art attributed to Mr. Jones is absolutely captivating and, in many ways, the artwork itself becomes a character in the film. There is a beautiful creepiness throughout; the sculptures are primitive, haunting, and universal—both terrifying and mystifying. I learned in the credits that all these works were created by an anonymous Halloween-obsessed sculptor who calls himself Pumpkinrot. While information on Pumpkinrot is scarce, I found evidence of a cult-like following that makes me wonder if he is a real-life inspiration for the mysterious Mr. Jones? Either way, I now consider myself one of his fans. You can Google Pumpkinrot for yourself, or you can link his official website HERE, an interesting blog about him HERE—and he’s even got a shop on Etsy that you can visit HERE. Just as the cover-art made buying the DVD worth it, the art of Pumpkinrot alone is a reason to give Mr. Jones a spin.
We learn early in Act 2 that the “Mr. Jones” moniker was given to him by an art-dealer; his real name and identity is never revealed. But it becomes clear that Mr. Jones has a purpose that goes far beyond making creepy art and, while this purpose may seem sinister, we’re never sure if his intentions are evil or benign. It’s a truly compelling mystery with some brilliant possibilities that are, unfortunately, diluted by the slogging cacophony of the film’s conclusion.
If you like David Lynch, you’ll most likely enjoy Mr. Jones. If you’re bothered by “Found Footage” and/or surrealist storytelling then don’t even bother. Despite my disappointment in the film’s 3rd Act, I still found Mr. Jones to be a very creative, above average Horror-watching experience. It’s extremely low on gore and violence, so all fans of experimental cinematography should take note. If you’ve got the mental stamina necessary to take it all in, there’s enough subtext to keep your mind busy for days.
Now if I can just get that goddamn Counting Crows song out of my head.
3 out of 5 Skull Heads.