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Mr. Jones (Blu-ray / DVD)

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Mr. Jones (2014)Starring Jon Foster, Sarah Jones, Mark Steger

Written and directed by Karl Mueller

Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment


Settling in to watch Mr. Jones, the first thing that got my attention was the fact that it was rated PG-13. Usually, that’s a pretty big obstacle to overcome for a horror movie. Not to say that it can’t be an effective horror offering if it’s rated PG-13, but it is certainly harder to find them than it is their R-rated brethren.

After sighing past the PG-13 disappointment, I discover Mr. Jones is a handheld camera, found footage style picture. There have been so many horror movies shot in this style over the last few years that it’s become quite tedious and repetitive. Again, not to say that a good movie can’t come from the handheld camera style, but the fact that the technique is somewhat overplayed makes it another hurdle for Mr. Jones to jump.

However, very quickly into the movie viewers will notice, especially on Blu-ray, that Mr. Jones is gorgeously shot. Filmed in a mountainous countryside, director Karl Mueller captured imagery so crisply that it appears to be nearly three-dimensional in some sections. Stunning landscape shots are intermingled with unique camera angles and clever imagery early in the film. As the action rolls on, the beauty becomes less frequent, but the sharpness of the picture cannot be overstated. It’s a skillfully shot movie.

And to its credit, Mr. Jones achieves the prime directive of horror. It creates tension. The Big T. There are certainly some scenes where you will find yourself squirming in your chair as you wonder just what is around the next corner. Much of it is Paranormal Activity-esque jump scares, but in my book tension is tension, and Mr. Jones does keep you involved early on.

This is the story of Scott and Penny. They are a young couple who find themselves living in a remote cabin for a year. Scott traded in his regular job and regular life to go live in the woods and shoot a wilderness documentary. And Penny, loving girlfriend that she is, gave up her big city life and followed her man on his epic adventure. Unfortunately, Scott realizes he misses his TV and creature comforts more than he ever would have imagined (plus he conveniently went off his mental illness meds), and the relationship begins to crumble after a few weeks in seclusion.

Soon, Scott and Penny stumble across another cabin not far from theirs. A little exploration uncovers some unique scarecrow-esque totems that Penny immediately recognizes as the work of a reclusive artist known only as “Mr. Jones.” She convinces Scott that he must change the subject of his documentary and temporarily return to New York City to interview all sorts of people connected to the artwork of Mr. Jones. The thrill of the new discovery and refocused project heal the fissures that had cracked in their relationship, and Scott and Penny attack this outing with zeal. And then all sorts of strange things begin to happen.

Director Mueller incorporated a different handheld camera technique in Mr. Jones as he gave his characters the use of a camera that would film what was in front of the cameraman as well as capture the cameraman’s face. Not sure in what capacity this would have been used if Scott had stuck with the nature documentary, but it does make for a more complete handheld camera film. At least the viewer is getting some kind of reaction to the shaky imagery in front of them, and not just the shaky imagery. Also, a section in the middle of Mr. Jones is made up of some of Scott’s documentary interview footage. This was a very clever way to give the audience a little more of Mr. Jones’ story and add some intrigue to the character. This is a similar technique to one that was used in The Silence of the Lambs, for example, when other characters talked about how evil Dr. Lecter was before we ever got a look at him.

But as beautiful and creatively shot as the first half of the movie is, Mr. Jones takes an unfortunate turn at around the halfway mark. Much of the handheld camera work becomes shakier as the characters are in situations where they need to run. And everything eventually breaks down into disjointed, dream-like, choppy scenes. Things become hard to follow and sometimes even hard to see. By the time I got to the final ten minutes, I had had enough of the ongoing trippy scenes and was absolutely ready for the end.

Nicely shot with good performances from the two main actors, Jon Foster and Sarah Jones, Mr. Jones gets off on the right foot for sure. But by the time the final bell rings, you may find yourself wondering just what the hell happened for the past 30 minutes. With a PG-13 rating and no F/X work to fall back on, Mr. Jones needs to rely on story to keep viewers in the game, and it manages to do that for only about 45 minutes before things go screwy at the end.

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The Film:

2 1/2 out of 5

Special Features:

0 out of 5

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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review

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Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo

Directed by Colin Bemis


Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.

The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.

As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.

Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.

In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.

On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.

In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.

Until then, check out the film’s trailer HERE, and follow the movie on Facebook.

  • Strawberry Flavored Plastic
3.5

Summary

Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)

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We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.

In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View

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Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

Directed by Marcel Sarmiento


Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

  • Film
2.0

Summary

Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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