JUG FACE (2013)
Jug Face is a very odd and offbeat low budget horror and while it wasn’t scary or particularly suspenseful, it was unsettling, effective and original. So, as someone who supports and is a big fan of low budget indie horror, especially something unusual and off the beaten path, I did like this little movie for its unique and atmospheric tale.
The Tennessee filmed story takes place in a remote little backwoods community that is presided over by a supernatural force/being that resides in a large sinkhole in the woods nearby. It watches over the village and heals their ills and in return requires an occasional sacrifice. Those who are chosen are selected through an eccentric potter named Dawai (Sean Bridges) who enters a trance-like state and creates a ceramic jug with a village resident’s likeness. That villager is then taken to the pit and offered up as sacrifice. Enter teen Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter) who has two secrets that she is keeping from her parents (indie horror fixture Larry Fessenden and Blade Runner’s Sean Young). One, she’s been having sex with her brother Jessaby (Daniel Manche) and is pregnant…and two, Dawai, who is smitten with Ada, has sculpted a jug with her likeness and she found and hid it before he came out of the pit induced trance. Denied a sacrifice, the thing in the pit is taking out its displeasure on village residents in gruesome fashion and Ada must decide what matters more, her own life and that of her unborn child, or the lives of the village members who are paying the price of her deception. Worse still, the entity in the pit forces her to envision the violent and painful death it exacts on each of its victims.
Writer/director Chad Crawford Kinkle gives his off-beat little horror some nice atmosphere and a sense of foreboding and wisely works within the confines of his low budget and gives it a charming aura of being set in its own little backwoods’ world. We rarely leave the little community except for a few short instances where the characters go into the city to sell moonshine, which is their trade. And doing so, it makes us more accepting of the possibility that this place and its supernatural resident could exist deep in the woods in rural America somewhere apart from what we consider the real world. As stated, the film is never really scary or suspenseful and once the credits roll, we realize that there are no big revelations or dramatic conclusions, but it is a small tale that only breaks out of its subtle telling for some startling splashes of blood and gore when our creature of the pit vents it’s wrath. Kinkle does use his subtle style to his advantage as when he needs to shock us with spurting blood or flying limbs…which are effectively portrayed…it works because we are not ready for it. As for Kinkle’s sinkhole inhabitant, we never fully see it, but it is given menace and its presence can be felt through the behavior and strong beliefs of the characters, giving it far more life than some cold digital effect might have. Jug Face is refreshingly old school, and it works.
The director also gets good work out of his cast with the pretty Carter successfully carrying a lot on her shoulders and Bridgers creating a likable and somewhat sad man in Dawai, who doesn’t really want to be the one through which the creature selects its offerings but does what he is asked to do regardless. Fessenden and Young also create a portrait of simple people with simple ways and a very strong belief in the traditions of their life centered around the pit and that adherence to its ways transcend individuality or family, for the greater good. And that also seems to be a theme running subtly beneath Kinkle’s chilling story, the question of whether following tradition or rebelling against it is a good thing or bad thing and we are left to draw our own conclusions as either seems to bring consequence.
Jug Face is an interesting and effective little movie that will not appeal to everyone, especially those who prefer their horror more traditional, but you have to give Kinkle and crew points for making something original and outside the box, as well as, making a film effectively within their means and with a more down to earth style in an age where filmmakers are far too eager to pull out the digital toys. It’s an interesting and odd little horror and if off the beaten path is where you prefer your horror to take you, then you might want to give this little flick a try. Chad Crawford Kinkle may prove to be a filmmaker to keep an eye on.
Rated 3 (out of 4) jugs.