Found footage films are pretty “Marmite”. Some people love them, others hate them. For me, I think the bigger question while watching found footage movies is why? Very few stories are enhanced this way. Do certain stories need to be found footage? Can the story be better told in a more traditional way?
In most cases, the found footage style is a waste. A ploy to get asses in seats.
Mr Jones is one of the more tough ones to figure out. For one, it falls into the category of “these people are way too attractive to be actual humans”. Think of all the reasons why Blair Witch failed and Blair Witch Project succeeded: are your actors believable? One of the best examples of this is Bad Ben (you’ve watched it already, haven’t you?). But I always find it difficult to enjoy a found footage movie when everyone in the movie looks way too good too be all together in the same setting.
The premise is on the lofty side too. A young couple decide to go out into the wilderness to stay in a cabin for a few months. It’s their sort of “reconnecting” opportunity as their relationship has been going through a rough patch.
Husband Scott is a documentary maker, trying to get work done out in the wild. But he quickly realises that he has no point in mind for his new film, and it doesn’t help matters when he quits taking his medication.
When his wife, Penny, finds out about his self-treatment, she becomes upset. The couple continue to be on the rocks until one night. A group of birds attack the house. And the following day, Scott’s backpack (containing the car keys) is stolen by a hooded figure.
He and Penny eventually track down the figure and find a home filled with strange scarecrow-type figures straight out of the Blair Witch’s house. But while Scott becomes paranoid, Penny becomes absolutely jubilant. When they return to their cabin, she informs Scott that the man they followed is “Mr. Jones” – a Banksy-esque artist whose work is worth millions as the artists himself stays anonymous.
The couple quickly decide to make money off their find and focus Scott’s documentary on Mr. Jones. Scott goes to New York where he begins collecting interviews with various art collectors, experts and the people who have received pieces from Mr. Jones unsolicited. The collectors love Mr. Jones. The experts love exploring the artist’s use of protective charms as his motifs. And the people who’ve received the art? Well, they’re haunted by a nightmare.
Penny, meanwhile, stays in the country where she bumps into Mr. Jones. She notices that the ‘artist’ wears a creepy burlap sack mask. But the man seems harmless.
When Scott returns, the couple decide to step up their game and break into Mr. Jones’s house again. Scott leaves Penny outside to keep watch as he goes through a hatch. He finds an endless maze-like tunnel. He eventually comes across a room, set up in a shrine-style manner filled with the scarecrows.
Scott sees one of the figures, a baby, and steals it from its spot. Meanwhile, Penny comes across Mr. Jones again. When Scott finds her, she doesn’t seem to remember what happened to them.
What follows is a seemingly endless second half of the movie. A little like that tunnel system ol’ Jones has. The couple see doplegangers, dream-like nightmares and other pointless stuff!
It’s a movie that started off with a fairly great idea and plummeted into the world of We Didn’t Finish the Script.
In many way Mr Jones struggled. And it wasn’t just the ending (and the ending was loooooong).
While the use of the high-end cameras was neatly explained away, it just felt silly. The viewer isn’t stupid and can see right through the flimsy premise. There really was no need for the dual perspective cameras, which much of the ‘footage’ relies on. And there was really no need to be filming themselves. Scott wanted to make a nature documentary, why was he filming arguments with his wife? I mean, who edited this footage anyway? Penny?
I also found it distracting that the characters didn’t really stay in character. Scott goes off his medication, but it’s quickly forgotten after the first few minutes. If it was alluded to again, it was way too subtle. And if you were to ask me to characterise Penny, I couldn’t. One minute she’s adventurous, the next she’s boo-hooing because she’s walking in the dark.
Mr Jones will probably hit the right chord with a certain type of person. But unfortunately, I was not one of them. It’s really a found-footage movie that needed to do a lot more soul searching.