Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Mr. Jones

A couple moves to a cabin in the woods to work on a documentary film, but instead encounter nightmarish events in this psychological thriller.

Although I've had this film in my Netflix queue for quite a while, I wasn't particularly moved to watch it until several people in a horror film Facebook group complained about it. After all the negative comments, I was completed to watch it.

I also was going to pan the film. Starting with the cliches of no cellphone coverage, POV "found footage" camera work, and endless bickering and navel gazing, I didn't have high hopes. I somehow ending up liking it.

I know, I'm equally as surprised as you are.

The appearance of a hooded figure in several early scenes lurking just in the periphery caught my attention. After this figure steals the backpack of the male character, forcing him to follow the thief back to his decrepit house decorated with eerie scarecrow-like totems, the male character brings back the reluctant female character to break-and-enter into the foreboding structure. Discovering more totems in the basement, the characters realize the house is occupied by a mysterious outsider folk artist known as Mr. Jones, who has been sending these ominous totems to people around the world for decades. Compelled to investigate further, their lives become enveloped in a surreal, never-ending dreamtime that circles back on itself again and again.

Well-shot, even with the initially irritating POV set-up, eventually the camerawork in Mr. Jones adds a disorienting, intimate intensity. The art direction in the form of skeletal, candlelit, blackened scarecrows creates an unsettling atmosphere. Effective, strobe-like lighting and inventive editing, which usually is a detriment to "found footage" films, but here helps to create a circuitous, labyrinthine environment. And finally, a nonlinear storyline that touches on symbolism from Jungian archetypes of the collective unconscious and aspects of dreaming and sleep from Vedic principles and Aboriginal dreamtime mythology fills out a somewhat thin plot. Although I would've liked a bit more characterization and footage of Mr. Jones' artwork, the film is a taut, enjoyable 90 minutes.

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