What’s this? Five days (and five movies — not that I can promise that this roughly one-film-per-day pace will prove to be sustainable a whole lot longer thanks to “real life” responsibilities) into our Netflix Halloween round-up, and not one “found footage” horror movie has made its way onto these virtual “pages” yet? Well, let’s rectify that right now, shall we?
Apparently, writer/director Karl Mueller’s Mr. Jones was something of an audience-splitter when it made its debut at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, with about half the folks who saw it thinking it was superb, the other half hating it with a passion, and not too may people in between — which means it’s in good company with things like White Castle hamburgers, chicken and waffle-flavored potato chips, and other stuff that tends to elicit a love-it-or-hate-it reaction among the populace at large. I’m sure I’m forgetting plenty of other good (and non-food-related) examples here, but I think you get the point.
All of which puts yours truly in something of a strange position because I really wasn’t terribly swayed by it either positively or negatively. It just sort of happened.
Certainly Mueller does what he can with a rather bog-standard set-up that sees his protagonist, Scott (played by Jon Foster) heading for the unspecified wilds of — I dunno, someplace —to film some kind of equally- unspecified nature documentary, but when he and his girlfriend, Penny (Sarah Jones) discover that their nearest thing to a neighbor out in the sticks might ust be the legendary (and titular) Mr. Jones, a near-anonymous sculptor/artist who’s famous for sending his works, unsolicited, to anonymous recipients across the country, our newly-non-medicated (for yet again– unspecified mental health issues) “hero” quickly shifts his film-making focus and abandons his better half to rough it on her own while he traipses around the Manhattan art scene trying to find out anything and everything he can about their mysterious fellow denizen of the wilderness.
Not quite intriguing, I’ll grant you that, although certainly at least interesting — but when Scott returns to his new “home” with the lines between reality and delusion getting blurrier all the time, Mueller temporarily (and abruptly) abandons the whole “mockumentary” thing for a brief while before returning to it in equally unannounced fashion and showing that somehow the “madness” has somehow spread to Penny, as well, and now it’s a very open question as to how and even whether or not Mr. Jones himself represents a genuine “threat” or one entirely of the couple’s own invention.
As a case study in the vagaries of isolation and its sometimes-attendant mental breakdowns, Mueller’s flick is a reasonably gripping drama, I suppose, but as an actual horror film, well — let’s just say that it comes up more than a bit short in terms of delivering anything like thrills, chills, or even payment on its ghastly bills. Mr. Jones plays out more like a wannabe-art house number than anything else, with some nods made in the general direction of genre fans in an attempt to cover its bases by fitting into some kind of category (however tenuously), but on the whole the impression it left, at least with me, was more one of “well, I guess that was worth a watch, but once is enough” than anything else.
Which probably puts it a notch above a heck of a lot of the pablum infesting the shallow waters of the horror queue on Netflix at the moment (remember, that’s out theme here), but only by the most slender of margins. And the fact that it shares a title with a truly awful Counting Crows song doesn’t exactly add points to its ledger, either, does it?
Still — it would be crazy for me to hold that against Mueller and his movie, especially when there’s a wealth of perfectly logical reasons to be less than enamored with Mr. Jones that don’t involve dragging in superfluous strikes against it.