All of the Horror Movies on Netflix #2: Mr. Jones
After the sort-of-internet-based horror of #Horror from last week, it was nice to get out of the house and breathe the fresh air (metaphorically—I definitely was on my couch) with Mr. Jones. Meet Penny and Scott, two attractive white people who are alternative, maybe even bohemian. They’ve encountered problems in their marriage, so as it’s often recommended of couples who are on the ropes, they retreat to nature to film a nature documentary. Mr. Jones, essentially, is a story about a couples retreat.
I would describe Penny as blend of Jane Levy and Carrie Poppy, but add more scarves and draped fabrics. She always has a crown of something in her hair, be it a bandana, flowers, or literal crystals. Scott is a more mainstream, sexy version of Jim Halpert, but in hoodies with some scruff. Despite retreating far, far away from civilization, Penny and Scott are always astoundingly clean.
Their far-off location begs many questions: Where do they get the ingredients for the meals they eat? Do they hunt and gather, or is there a grocery store nearby? Do they have plumbing? How did they come upon this cabin? Do they have a particular investment in nature? Day jobs? How can they afford to leave for a year?
Mr. Jones doesn’t answer these questions, or really any questions about Scott and Penny. For a movie with so few characters, there’s a lack of character building, and there’s not much delving into their day-to-day activities as they try to rebuild their relationship. (Although, Penny does draw a dick on Scott as he naps on a hammock, so I guess you could say she’s a prankster.)
The movie is gorgeous, though, which means Scott must have a very good handheld camera, because Mr. Jones is found footage. One day, as Scott breaks down from stress and records it (because stress is natural, thus, nature footage), a mysterious figure snatches his backpack from behind him.
Scott, of course, grabs his camera and pursues the figure. He finds a cabin with weird sculptures around it and witnesses the mysterious figure dart inside. Instead of saying, “Dude, where’s my fucking bag?”, Scott reports back to Penny. “Babe,” says Scott, “Let’s ruin this guy’s life.”
Okay, that’s not what happens word-for-word, but the couple does decide to break into the mysterious thief’s house. Hut. Hovel. There’s not a lot going on here, but Scott needs to go to the basement.
“Why?” you ask, a slight strain in your voice. Reader, I’m just not sure. I get that this dude took his bag and he needs that, but would you lift a fucking hatched door and crawl into a basement owned by a guy who wears a black cloak?
Well, guess what: this basement is filthy with creepy fucking sculptures made from sticks and bird bones and, I don’t know, cloaks the owner has outgrown. While ducking around the basement, Penny actually asks Scott, “Have you seen this stuff?”
They manage to avoid the man by ducking behind a half wall (sure), and then the protagonists bolt out of there. Back at the house, Penny and Scott breathe really loudly and make attempts at sentences. Finally, Penny digs out a book, turning the page around so Scott and I can see. Apparently, the sculptures are definitely, 100% for sure the creation of Mr. Jones. To qualify his notoriety, Penny tells Scott, “It’s like we’re living next door to J.D. Salinger or Banksy.”
Regardless of not really knowing who the fuck Mr. Jones is (thank god Penny had that book with her to call him out for being a Fake Art Boy), their location next to a crazy hermit gives Scott an idea. “Babe,” Scott says, “Let’s ruin this dude’s life and invade his privacy and make a documentary about it.”
Relationship fixed ✓✓✓✓
Because we need some exposition, Scott leaves Penny in the woods to go to the Big Apple and interview people about Mr. Banks- uh, Jones. Through these talking heads, we come to learn that Mr. Jones makes miniature versions of the sculptures Scott and Penny saw, and randomly sends them to people across the globe. One of the professors—an expert in anthropology and horror movie plot—tells Scott that he thinks the totems are guardians against evil spirits, and that Mr. Jones creates them to keep our world safe.
Meanwhile, Penny is climbing around the land, taking photos of all of these spooky stick figures. A message from Scott plays in the background that starts, “I’m not sure if you’re getting these…”, so thank god they each have a camera so I can check in on Penny. She runs into Mr. Jones on the road and realizes only when she’s two inches from his face that he wears a bag mask. Does she go home and lock all of the doors? Call the police? Maybe call Scott back? Nope. :) She follows him to his house. :)
Luckily, Mr. Jones is a real G, and he leads Penny back to her house with a lantern in a really dreamy sequence. Penny says that Mr. Jones felt “familiar,” and since there is only one other character in this movie, I’m going to go ahead and assume that the twist is that Scott becomes Mr. Jones.
Back in NYC, Scott is talking to someone who has been negatively affected by Mr. Jones and who says the totems made him really confused and “not himself.” He tells Scott to stop sniffing around Mr. Jones. I can only assume Scott responded to that dude with a sarcastic, “Huh, yeah, okay,” because when he meets back up with Penny, he’s ready to jump right back in. “Babe,” Scott says, “Let’s break in again.”
Scott has come prepared: he picked up some walkie talkies at Radioshack so they don't both have to be inside the spooky hut. Penny is the lookout, but I would not say she is a great choice. She yells so loud into her walkie talkie that I think that she thinks her voice needs to be loud enough for him to hear her inside. This becomes moot, however, when the walkie talkies stop working as Scott explores Mr. Jones's house.
Inside the house, Scott finds another basement below the first basement, and he hops right into that subbasement with the fearlessness of an under-developed character. In the subbasement, Scott finds a mama figure (Mama Spooky) with a baby figure (Baby Spooky) underneath it, and he rips the baby figure from the mama and shoves it into his Jansport. Outside, Penny is yelling “JONES IS IN THE HOUSE!!!” so loud that Mr. Jones comes out of the house to see what the ruckus is. She's somehow surprised by this, and she takes off, running into the dark.
Downstairs, Scott hears someone whispering Penny. He responds, “Penny?” because I guess maybe he thought it was Penny whispering her own name. When he goes outside with Baby Spooky still crammed in his bag, he yells for Penny but cannot find her. “Penny, this isn’t funny!” he says, remembering the time she drew a dick on his face and solidified her role as the prankster.
When Scott arrives back at the house, the sculptures are everywhere. All over his stuff! He finds Penny, who tells him that Mr. Jones saved her (again, and from what?), but their house is NOT SAFE! She says this with utmost certainty as there are horrible noises coming from all around them. Do they run? Do they hide? Nay, they bone.
This is a common thing in movies. Something scary and possibly apocalyptic is going on, so two characters with NOTHING ELSE TO LOSE have sex. Would you do that? Would you bang while there are possible ghouls outside and suddenly constructed sculptures made from animal bones in the next room over? I gotta say that I’m a hard pass.
The plan had been to wait until the sun rose to get in the car and leave, but the sun does not rise, and they do not leave. Scott and Penny wait, biding their time until this alleged rising sun, even though it is eleven in the morning and there’s still no freaking sun. Suddenly, there’s a hard knock on the door, and Scott is like, “Company?” Despite Penny’s pleading, he answers the door, revealing Mr. Jones. There’s half a second where they look at each other, and then Mr. Jones is ripped away from the porch by a strong wind/ghosts/something, and Scott is left standing with the mask in his hand.
In the other room, their computer monitor turns on. It starts playing back a bunch of footage from the past few weeks, and instead of yanking out the cables and crushing the computer with a thick boot, the two sit in front of it and watch. Slowly, the footage becomes less familiar, until there’s a shot of Scott in front of a mirror. “I didn’t take that,” Scott says, and then in the video, Other-Scott turns the camera’s view to show Real-Scott and Penny asleep in bed. The newest footage starts playing, which shows the two of them sitting in front of the computer monitor presently. They whip around, but there’s no one there.
This is around the time the movie, for some reason, completely abandons found footage. Penny hurriedly explains to Scott that she thinks their world is merging with another, and whatever Mr. Jones was trying to stop is happening now. She thinks the only way to stop this convergence is to put Baby Spooky back with Mama Spooky. There’s another knock on the door, and Scott—always the gentleman—answers it. Oh? Sorry? Who’s here?
It’s a deer corpse.
Other-Scott blasts through the door, his teeth very brown and his cackle very menacing. There are a bunch of whispers of names: Scott, Penny, Jason Derulo…
Scott and Penny run into their bedroom, barring the door. The worlds are starting to blend, which means there’s a second version of Penny, too. As Scott’s vision fades in and out, Real-Penny and Other-Penny give him conflicting advice: Real-Penny wants him to get Baby Spooky home so they can gtfo, but Other-Penny pleads for him to stay. Women! And! Their! Duplicity!
Other-Penny finally gets her own corporeal form, and she’s like Penny, but if Penny was Allison Harvard from ANTM Cycle 12. As the two Pennys try to convince Scott to listen to them, Other-Penny stars to refer to Scott as “Mr. Jones.” Hmm? What could that mean?
The final twenty minutes of the movie are, honestly, super terrible. While Scott is in this dreamworld, everything sounds like it’s underwater. There’s a bunch of audio running over other audio and whispers and fade-ins, pulsating frames, flashes of light. Scott is trying to get to Mama Spooky, but I’m super confused at where Penny is. The way things fade in and out, it doesn’t seem like (?) Penny is having the same difficulty as Scott in this world, and she keeps calling to and guiding him.
As he arrives at Mr. Jones’ house, 100 Scotts appear, banging on the window, each one blander than the one before. He rushes past them and into the basement, where Scott sees Penny surrounded by multiple versions of Penny who shake their heads at him. Back at my house, I pause the movie to pour myself some whiskey.
Despite the Other world trying very lightly to stop him, Scott manages to return Baby Spooky to its rightful home, and then, oh my god, you’re not going to believe this: He puts on the mask he took off of Mr. Jones!! A twist!
In the final shot of the movie, someone (?) films Scott, who has lifted the mask above his head so he can French (presumably real) Penny as they say goodbye. She tells him, “You have to protect us, Scott." They look at each other longingly, and then Scott walks towards the camera, determined. Scott pulls down his mask and lifts his lantern. Counting Crows' "Mr. Jones" blasts through the speakers (it doesn't). Scott. Is. Mr. Jones.
Rating: Two out of Five Spooky Pumpkins
Although it feels spiritually very similar to Insidious (especially with a world running parallel to ours where everything is very fucky and people wear a lot of white makeup), Mr. Jones is a solid 0% scary. There's a general air of spookiness, but it more feels like a fantasy movie. Although I'm pretty googly-eyed over the premise, the found footage makes little-to-no-sense, the plot rapidly becomes hard to follow, and the characters are underdeveloped and stale. Also, it's hard to root for the protagonists when they just seem like jerks who stalked someone for two months and called it art.