Director: Karl Mueller
Cast: Jon Foster, Sarah Jones
Watch Mr. Jones online in the UK: Netflix UK / TheHorrorShow.tv / TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Eircom / Virgin Movies / EE / TalkTalk / Sky Store
“Have you ever realised you’re in over your head? That you can’t go back?” begins Scott (Foster) at the start of Mr. Jones.
It’s an original opening for a horror flick, an introduction that engages us with honest observations while subtly providing all the exposition we need.
“Have you ever moved to the woods for a year to work on your relationship?” he continues. “Then realised, after a month, you miss your TV?”
Scott, you see, has gone off into the wild with Penny (Jones), his girlfriend, to make a nature documentary “so beautiful you’ll never want to see another film”. There, they come across an abandoned hut belonging to the mysterious Mr. Jones.
“Have you ever stopped taking your meds and realised that you have no idea what this movie is about in the first place?” he adds.
It’s a comment that, like all the others, rings true, as their investigation slowly begins to unravel. Debut writer and director Karl Mueller is a dab hand at creating a genuinely spooky atmosphere and proves he has the smarts to match: as soon as we think we’re in for a typical handheld dash through the trees, he whisks us – and Scott – away to the city for a string of interviews with suited art experts.
Is Mr. Jones some kind of tortured sculptor, who sends wooden figures to random people for no reason? It’s a neat theory, but while it does give rise to the immortal character name “Alleged Scarecrow Recipient”, it soon becomes apparent that the truth is perhaps something else altogether. Sadly, it’s something less interesting.
That’s not the fault of the cast. Jon Foster and Sarah Jones make for a likeable pair as Scott and Penny, flirting and arguing with believable rapport. Mark Steger is menacing as the shadowy Mr. Jones, all black cloak and gas lantern.
The star of the show, though, is Mueller. Shooting the Californian outback with an eye for stunning sunsets, the daytime sequences are as beautiful as the nighttime sequences are scary. Accompanied by superb sound design, Karl ramps up the ominous tone with the claustrophobic feel of someone’s trippy memory; soon, we start seeing things that may not be there, hearing things that may not be possible.
By the time the answer to Mr Jones’ mystery arrives, though, the director has begun throwing everything he has at the screen, while the script – which began so smartly – descends into a final third that has to spell the story out for you to make up for the confusing visuals.
“Have you ever realised you’re in over your head? That you can’t go back?” begins Scott (Foster) at the start. Mr. Jones captures that nightmarish sensation of being lost in the woods with alarming effect – but risks becoming just that.
Mr. Jones is available to watch on Netflix UK as part of a monthly £5.99 subscription.
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