The creepy new movie Mr. Jones brings a whole new angle to the found footage sub-genre of horror. Recently, writer and director of Mr. Jones, Karl Mueller, sat down with Dread Central to discuss the film.
Mr. Jones (review) is a brilliant looking film, especially on Blu-ray. Mueller talked about how he managed to create such a crisp looking movie. “I’m very pleased with how the look turned out,” Mueller said. “Obviously a lot of the credit has to go to my amazing D.P., Mathew Rudenberg. We had a pretty ambitious plan for shooting the movie and not a lot of time to do it in, so Mathew’s ability to move fast but still get it right was absolutely critical. We shot most of the movie on the Arri Alexa, which is an amazing camera. The current wave of digital cameras is particularly useful on horror films because of how they perform in low light conditions—and since a large majority of this movie takes place at night, that’s helpful. We also spent a long time working with a mad genius post production colorist named Jod Soraci. You would be stunned with how you can manipulate a film’s look in post now, particularly with a camera like the Alexa, which captures so much information.”
Mr. Jones is a found footage style movie, but Mueller included a camera that would film both front and rear facing at the same time. This gave him not only a fresh idea to put into the film, but also the ability to capture the cameraman’s reaction to whatever happens to be going on in front of his lens at any given time. “I don’t really know how we would’ve made the movie without that,” Mueller said. “I guess the idea came from how I conceived the style this movie would be shot in. The idea was that the main character, Scott, is actually an accomplished documentary filmmaker. He’s not some high schooler carelessly swinging his iPhone around. He’d put a lot of thought into how he could best capture what he was shooting. Since GoPro’s are pretty much in everybody’s budgetary reach these days, I had the idea that he might build a rig with a small camera facing back at his face while he was shooting stuff. This would both keep him in the story emotionally and give him something to cut away from if he needed to condense time in his ‘documentary.’ Of course, in reality, it gave ME those tools, which was great.”
Mueller continued, “I don’t think I quite realized just how challenging this would be for Jon Foster, who plays Scott. Jon had to actually operate that camera himself, in character. We would cover the scene from the ‘forward-facing’ camera with our D.P. operating, and then turn around and ask Jon to replicate all the moves so we could cut back and forth seamlessly in the editing room—WHILE also giving his performance. I turned out to be incredibly lucky that Jon is pretty much good at everything and handled this without breaking a sweat.”
In addition to the found footage portion of Mr. Jones, there is also a small section that is actually part of the documentary one of the characters is filming. This section is very informative and definitely adds to the story tremendously. “I think it’s a big breath of fresh air when we go to the New York footage and the interviews Scott collects there,” Mueller said. “It helped us out in many ways. It opens the movie up a bit, grounding it in the real world, not just the contained world at Scott and Penny’s cabin. And it also lets you sort of build the legend of Mr. Jones up, giving conflicting viewpoints and interpretations on who the guy is and why he does what he does. I could have easily doubled the length of that section and been happy if it wouldn’t have hurt the pacing of the movie.
Mueller uses some very cool angles and unique shots to add flavor to the film. Most notably was a trip to New York City taken by Scott, and also a cup of coffee that looks otherworldly. “Those two shots in particular were actually shot by my editor, Saul Herckis, who did many jobs on this movie, including direct the Second Unit,” Mueller said. “The coffee cup shot comes during a section of the movie where Penny is actually shooting the footage, and the New York stuff is all shot by Scott. Saul and I talked a lot about the different filmmaking style each character would have, and the kinds of things they might concentrate on in their environment. Penny is an artist—I thought she’s the kind of person who would find beauty in the mundane, in making everyday things seem weird by looking at them from a different angle. We looked at a couple different films—the most important being a little experimental documentary shot by the late war photojournalist Tim Hetherington—and then Saul and his second unit crew ran around the location and just shot a bunch of stuff like that while I was with the first unit.”
“As far as the New York stuff goes,” Mueller continued. “Scott is sort of an A.D.D. case who’s all about getting excitement and energy into his stuff. So when Saul happened to be making a trip to New York, he just stole a bunch of footage at various locations, and we threw it onto the hard drive and sped it up.”
One thing Mr. Jones does quite well is build tension. Mueller discussed exactly how he was able to do so in such an effective manner. “Yeah, tension and release are pretty much the name of the game in horror movies,” Mueller said. “Fifty percent of a movie is sound, and when you’re working on a low budget, sound is your friend. You can tell people a lot of conflicting things about how they should be feeling without them quite realizing it if you do it right. We spent a lot of time on the sound mix here, layering in drones and sound carpets are designed to operate just below your threshold of awareness. You don’t quite know why you’re feeling tense, but you are. At least, that’s the hope.”
Mr. Jones is available on Blu-ray and DVD now!
Got news? Click here to submit it!
Subscribe to the Dread Central YouTube Channel!
Meet big stars in the comments section below!