REVIEW: MR. JONES / CERT: 15 /DIRECTOR: KARL MUELLER / SCREENPLAY: KARL MUELLER / STARRING: JON FOSTER, SARAH JONES, MARK STEGER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW / AVAILABLE: WWW.THEHORRORSHOW.TV (+ DVD)
'What if you came to the woods to find solitude but found out you were not really alone', that's the predicament facing Penny (Jones) and Scott (Foster) when they take a year out to live in the country. Penny halts her successful photography career, while Scott intends to film a nature documentary; but after a few weeks, this aspiration comes to nothing as he stops taking his medication and, rather than helping their relationship, the seclusion puts more of a strain on it. They are woken one night by a flock of birds which die after hurtling themselves toward the cabin. Things get even more bizarre when they discover a shack in the middle of the wood, which they take it on themselves to look around. In the basement, they find a collection of disturbing scarecrows. Penny realises that they are the work of a reclusive artist, Mr Jones (Steger) who sent similar works to seemingly random people all over the country. She suggests Scott should change the focus of his work to get the background on the man. Most of them speak academically about his work, but one alleged recipient warns Scott that he should stay away and stop his investigation. Staying back at the cabin, Penny attempts to photograph the totems, but is increasingly spooked when the hooded artist suddenly appears in front of her while setting his artwork up, Bansky-style. When Scott comes back, things get worse and they become under siege from both Mr Jones and their own imaginations and fears.
Filmed in a first person format, but far from 'found footage', the style ranges from shaky-cam to talking head interviews, to a standard film method. A subtle yet effective score supplements the chills, and there are many editing techniques used, including rough jump cuts and some stylishly flashy images. Overall, they do enhance the effect rather than distract, but by the end, the feeling is somewhat of a sensory overload.
It's a dark film, in tone as well as image; so much of the action takes place in near-darkness so one has to really pay attention. Even then, it doesn't lay out all the answers, which could frustrate some viewers. As the line between reality and nightmare blurs, the film amps up both tension in the viewer and between the couple, before eventually eschewing the hand held self-shot look altogether. It's a brave effort at creating something different, and although it doesn't fully work, it's engaging enough to hold the interest for the running time and provides one or two jolts among some disturbing (but not graphic) imagery.