31 Days of Horror - Mr. Jones (2013)

Scott (Jon Foster) and Penny (Sarah Jones) move out into the wilderness to film a nature documentary and repair their marriage. Just when Scott stops taking his meds and the nature documentary begins to fall apart, the couple stumble upon an old house filled with scarecrows and totems that Penny identifies as works of Mr. Jones, a Banksy-like "artist" whose works are lauded in the art world and studied by anthropologists. But do these scarecrows serve an other worldly purpose that has the potential to destroy Scott and Penny?

This film had a lot going for it, but it unfortunately also had a lot that brought it down. Talk about a film that is frustratingly uneven. Found footage films always have a burden when it comes to storytelling, but they also have a blessing. Scenes and transitions aren't nearly as difficult to plan out. Mr. Jones eschews its found footage status in its third act and turns into a sort of hazy dream, so it at least delivers something new to the genre. But Scott and Penny follow the gender norms of most found footage films -- he's a skeptic who makes things worse and she believes right off the bat. So, we're already working in tired clichés here. However, this film has a solid enough premise (although bad dialogue nearly derails that). The scarecrows and Mr. Jones himself are spooky enough to keep you going despite the film's problems. But the problem is the director went with the kitchen sink approach to create the film's spooks (what a rollercoaster, right?).

Basically Karl Mueller said "throw every creepy idea in there", and he was expecting it to blow your daaaamn miiiind, maaaaan. To be fair, some of this stuff is great. As said, the scarecrows are effective and a sequence inside Mr. Jones' workshop is inspired. But when the climax happens the filmmakers seem to employ every tired twitchy visual cliché in an effort to elevate your fear in the chaos. If you've see the American Pulse think about all of its terrible dream sequences. Now imagine those on crack. If you haven't seen Pulse imagine a movie that things jumpy editing and faux glitchiness creates a sufficiently creepy effect.

It doesn't really work, and it ends up making it a lot messier than it'd be if they had stuck to the few great ideas they had. There's a really foreboding point in particular when the couple waits for the sun to come up to hike to a road for help that felt like the making of a great Twilight Zone episode. If this movie had cooled it on the chaos it would be the talk of streaming town (it's on Netflix), but instead it's merely "okay".

5.5/10 stars.