HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: JUG FACE (2013)

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Jug-Face

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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 it’s 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 it’s 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 it’s 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 it’s 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 it’s 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 it’s 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 and it’s presence can be felt through the behavior and strong beliefs of the characters, giving it far more life then 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 it’s 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 it’s ways transcends 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.

3 jugs.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE GIRL NEXT DOOR (2007)

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THE GIRL NEXT DOOR (2007)

I’ll start off by saying that this is a highly unpleasant film and I don’t think I could ever watch it again. That being said, I have to give the filmmaker’s credit for making a very effective film that is all the more horrifying since it is partially based on the real life torture and murder of Sylvia Likens in 1965, by not only the woman whose care she was in, but by the woman’s children and some of the neighboring children as well. The source material for the film is Jack Ketchum’s fictional novel of the same name which is loosely based on the Likens murder and tells the story of two girls Meg (Blythe Auffarth) and Susan (Madeline Taylor) who are sent to live with their Aunt Ruth (a sinister Blanche Baker) and her three sons after the death of their parents. Ruth already shows signs of being unhinged as she treats the neighborhood kids to alcohol and cigarettes, but really takes a dislike to the very pretty and mature Meg, especially when she takes away the attention of the boys from Ruth. Soon Meg is targeted for severe punishments that escalate into imprisonment, torture, rape and mutilation by Ruth, along with her sons and their friends. Hidden away and with no one to come looking for her, Meg is helpless to their increasingly violent and depraved acts while a fearful and equally helpless Susan can do nothing to save her and the neighbors don’t want to know anything beyond their own idyllic four walls.

As directed by Gregory M. Wilson, this is one hell of a rough movie to sit through. Wilson wisely implies the worst of the torturous acts, but there is enough of it for you to get the idea of what kind of nightmare this poor young girl is going through and when his camera turns away from the rougher events, you know enough of what is going on to be properly mortified as your imagination does all the work. And what’s even more horrifying than the acts committed, is that they are being committed willingly and almost enthusiastically by so many and by those so young. Not only did this poor girl do nothing to instigate this, but as you’re watching, you can’t help think that to a degree, this actually happened. Obviously, Ketchum jacked up the viciousness and cruelty to make his novel more of a horror story and changed names and certain details, but it is still based on fact.

The cast also help make this very effective, with Baker being a completely detestable and horrible person, simply a monster in suburban housewife clothing. Auffarth makes a sweet and undeserving victim, who we really like and thus feel terrible for, as we watch helplessly from our seats as she becomes the object of the worst in human nature and by those who themselves are far too young to be even thinking of such vile acts, much less engaging in them. Auffarth’s portrayal of Meg’s gradual giving up and submitting to what’s being done to her is enough to crack even the hardest of hearts.

This is not a film I can recommend per say as much as just acknowledging the filmmakers’ accomplishment at the telling of a truly horrible fact based series of events. This was probably not an easy book to adapt, but the script by Daniel Farrands and Philip Nutman along with Wilson’s direction, are both unflinching and yet restrained. They get the story told without crossing the line into exploitation, as it easily could have done.

So credit where credit is due, you horrified a guy who has been watching all kinds of horror movies for over four decades and seen some truly gut-wrenching things committed to film. It was an effective and well made movie that I never want to watch again. Also stars Grant Show and Catherine Mary Stewart as the oblivious parents of David (Daniel Manche), one of the few kids who shows a bit of moral backbone and William Atherton as the adult David whose painful remembrance narrates the tragic tale. A horrifying film, but one that avoids being exploitive about its easily exploitable subject matter.

3 stars. I just feel my usual rating style would be a bit crass considering the truth based subject matter.

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