Mr Jones Summary and Review

Scott: Jon Foster

Penny: Sarah Jones

Mr Jones: Mark Steger

Director: Karl Mueller

Writer: Karl Mueller

Release: 2013

Not so long ago, this was billed as a must-watch by “best horror film” lists and I eagerly looked forward to giving “Mr Jones'” a spin. It’s essentially a found-footage film with cabin-in-the-woods/folklore horror themes providing an interesting take that gives the genre a shot in the arm but doesn’t live up to its early promise. 

Scott (Jon Foster) and Penny (Sarah Jones) are a couple in crisis. Their relationship needs a kickstart and Scott’s documentary-making career has stalled so, to breathe new life into both, the couple set off to live in a remote woodland cabin for a year to mend their relationship and provide Scott with some much needed inspiration to make a new nature documentary.

After an initial honeymoon period, the cracks start to reappear and Scott sinks into a state of lethargy. Penny, who has been a source of support and encouragement, becomes irritated by his lack of application and they start to backslide to where they were before they got there.

However, in their self-absorption they initially fail to notice that they are not alone and are being observed by a mysterious figure, who steals Scott’s backpack. As they try to retrieve it, they stumble upon a tumbledown dwelling and enter the property where they discover a workshop filled with a series of elaborately designed scarecrows and totems.

They draw the conclusion that the mysterious, stalking figure is the legendary Mr Jones (Mark Steger), an anonymous and enigmatic folk artist who, over decades, has been sending pieces of his work to unconnected strangers across the world. This makes him into something of an art world celebrity with people willing to pay up to seven figures for his work.

Following their discovery, Penny and Scott are reinvigorated and find new inspiration for a project to document their finds and try to unearth the identity of the enigmatic artist. However, Scott’s ambition proves to be their undoing and, as the story progresses, the couple find themselves drawn into a nightmare dreamscape where they have to battle to escape and right the wrongs that they have created.

There was a lot to like about this film as it starts off in a positive and promising manner by slowly building the mystery surrounding Mr Jones and his intentions. His status as folk art hero adds another strand of complexity to the development of this mysterious character and the motives for his artistry. The acting was good with Foster and Jones convincingly portraying a couple fighting for their relationship in the face of external events. The videography was clean and crisp, lacking much of the shaky handheld camera footage we have come to associate with the genre. In the first act, there are some beautifully composed shots that build the sense of a remote woodland idyll, maintaining the intimacy and immediacy of found-footage while creating an atmosphere of uncertainty and creeping fear. 

However, there were aspects that spoiled the experience such as Scott (in particular) and Penny’s meddling in matters that they did not understand, beyond their own gratification. Scott’s decision to re-enter the property to explore and then, inexplicably, remove an item was infuriating. This sets off a chain of events that place them in danger and, although it served to drive the narrative, I ended up spending more time being annoyed with Scott than following the story. If the aim was to demonstrate hypocrisy in the face of burning ambition it may have succeeded to a point but ultimately, this provided too much of a distraction for me.

There are unanswered questions galore such as why Mr Jones distributed his work in the way that he did and what was the connection with his activity in the forest? It could be argued that the various enigmas allowed for layered interpretations but, combined with a mish-mash of choppily edited scenes of found-footage, by the third act, it simply became confusing and drawn out which was tiring rather than thrilling. 

At about the half-way point, I would have happily given “Mr Jones” a 4 out of 5. Like “Death of Me” (review here), it started out with an intriguing premise that draws in the viewer and arouses curiosity so that you eagerly anticipate the next reveal. Unfortunately, the intrigue was unceremoniously replaced with a desire for the whole thing to end sooner rather than later, with an open-ended conclusion that merely compounded the sense of dissatisfaction.



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