I’m not sure I can be unbiased. I started watching Cam2Cam and got so bored in the first 5 minutes that I had to bail — and I never do that. Switching to Mr. Jones, in the first 15 seconds, I had a fun couple who don’t seem to hate each other, and even more rare, I didn’t hate them. It banked about 20 minutes of goodwill immediately. It would need them later.
Scott and Penny are on a road trip, and I am encouraged by the fact that they are lost. How quaint, to be lost on a paved road in daylight in the age of GPS. The next morning, they arrive at their destination, a cabin not quite in the woods, but in a rural area. I am again encouraged by a title card which says “DAY 1” as that always means the characters are going to start ramping up (or is it down) to Hell in a day or two.
The first day starts pleasantly enough with a lot of magic-hour photography, heavenly choir type music, and philosophical questions from Scott. They have come to the woods for a year to “work on their relationship,” or was it to make a documentary? I feel vindicated in fleeing Cam2Cam.
DAY 51 — wait, what? That’s quite a leap. Scott tells Penny that he stopped taking his meds, but we never learn what they were. Possibly some of the last act could be attributed to that, but it really only seems to cloud an ending that wasn’t sky-blue to begin with. Penny starts nagging him that she gave up everything to come out here with him, and he better start working on that documentary. Maybe he just ran out of of meds, having doubled up listening to 51 days of that shit.
They do manage to get to sleep — in the same Queen size bed, so things aren’t too bad yet — but are awakened by noises downstairs. Turns out to be birds flying into the side of the house and occasionally breaking through a window.
The next morning, Scott is giving a Survivor-style confessional to the camera, in the background we see a black-clothed figure steal his pack. Going in search of the pack, they discover another house is near theirs. Getting no answer, they go in and find a very junky house with parts of walls and the ceiling missing. Luckily Scott has a special camera that can film both frontward and backward. On the upside, we should never miss anything; on the downside, lots of distorted super close-ups of his face.
Scott discovers a cellar door and asks Penny to be his lookout. Scott quickly finds his pack, but now it is Penny that wants to stick around and look at the grotesque figures handing in the cellar. Naturally the owner comes back, but they are able to escape. Penny recognizes the figures as being the work of the reclusive artist Mr. Jones. Penny compares it to living next door to JD Salinger or Banksy. You know, if they lived in hovels and created creepy scarecrows out of branches and parts of animals. Who’s to say there isn’t a first draft called Butcher in the Rye under Salingers’s floorboards?
Scott goes back to NYC and starts interviewing scholars and critics about Mr. Jones for the documentary. Over the years, nine random people have received packages from Mr. Jones containing his artwork. Those receiving the gifts seem to have nothing in common, but the works are valued in the six figures.
Penny stays in the woods, taking pictures of Mr. Jones works which are hanging from trees in the woods. As Penny takes pictures, he creeps up behind her. She asks him for an interview but is startled when he looks a little like one of his scarecrows.
When Scott comes back from New York, they discuss a plan to break into the cellar again to film. I’m not sure why just knocking on the guy’s door is not an option. The scarecrows are gone from the woods. Scott returns to the basement and discovers another sub-basement. He finds chambers with burning scarecrows, but has lost walkie-talkie contact with Penny.
Scott finally finds his way out of the basement and goes back tom their house which has been decorated with scarecrows. They decide to make a run for it in the morning, but by 9:30, it still is not light.
The old night never becoming day trope is one of my favorites, but it just does nothing for me here. I leads into a very ambiguous final act which could be hallucinations, the supernatural, the missing meds? The overlapping dialogue, callbacks to earlier scenes, and light shows are really in service of nothing.
Frankly, they would have been better off keeping it simple and making the sub-basement with the flaming dolls and shifting passageways be the final act.
There was one interesting concept, that Mr. Jones was actually a protector rather than the real threat. Again, though, not enough, was done with this theory to even make it a good thought experiment.
So, decent couple, nice set-up, huge let-down in the final act. The potential was there, though.
- From the writer of The Divide, which I don’t remember hating.