Every once in a while a film manages to surprise me and goes way beyond my expectations. JUG FACE is one of those films. When I came across this film on Netflix, the artwork, the title, and even the description of the film didn’t do much for me. But since it is summertime and I had nothing else to watch, I thought I’d give it a try. What the hell, right? Almost as soon as I started watching it, JUG FACE captivated me and became one of my favorite films of the summer.
JUG FACE focuses on Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter) and her family who live in a small community in the backwoods away from the rest of society. There is Ada’s father Sustin (Larry Fessenden), her mother Loriss (Sean Young), her brother Jessaby (Daniel Manche), and her somewhat slow cousin Dawai (Sean Bridgers). Right from the start you’ll get the feeling that something weird in going on in this small, hillbilly community. Besides the arranged marriages and mothers frequently checking their daughters to make sure they are still virgins, there’s a pit on the outskirts of town that everyone in the community worships and reveres. The pit gives the community protection and good harvests, but when it gets pissed off there’s Hell to pay (usually in the form of sacrifices).
Dawai seems to have a connection to the pit, and whatever is inside of it talks through the semi-retarded man. After communicating with he pit, Dawai will make a jug with the face of whoever must be sacrificed. It doesn’t matter who it is, if it is your face on the jug then you will be sacrificed. Ada and her brother have been rather naughty together and she winds up pregnant. The pit doesn’t like this and soon after, Ada’s face is on one of the jugs. She finds the jug before anyone else sees it and hides it in the woods. This sets off a string of terrible events in the community that endangers everyone’s lives.
JUG FACE is the feature length debut of writer-director Chad Crawford Kinkle and I was impressed with his effort. Kinkle’s style is subtle as he builds up the story and lets the viewer come to know and care about (or hate) the characters. There is no simple line in the sand here where you can point to certain characters and say, “Oh, those are obviously the good characters,” while others are the “evil.” Every character has elements of good and evil within them. The lead character Ada is an innocent, scared young woman who unintentionally sets off a string of horrible events. Even the pit itself and whatever resides in it (more on this below), you can’t just label it as evil. The pit provides protection and bounty for the hillbillies, and nothing forced the villagers into the deal it made with the pit. The pit does what it says it will as long as the humans keep up their end of the bargain.
What I also loved in Kinkle’s story is the pit itself. It is just a big old hole in the ground and we never really learn a damn thing about it. It is a primal, Lovecraftian hole which is home to an unknown, shapeless force that is both good and bad. If Kinkle tried to explain away the pit, that would’ve really taken away from the mystery and tone of the film. The soundtrack is fantastic and really helps shape and maintain the creepy, alienating tone. As I watched JUG FACE I couldn’t help but think Kinkle’s style was familiar. During the credits I saw that Lucky McKee and Andrew van den Houten were executive producer and producer (respectively) and that made a whole lotta sense. McKee directed and Houten produced McKee’s 2011 film, THE WOMAN and there’s a lot of similarity between the tone of that film and JUG FACE (yet, oddly enough, on the film’s IMDb page, McKee wasn’t listed as the exec producer).
The story in JUG FACE takes some unexpected twists and my eyes were glued to the screen for its entire eighty-one minute run time. And thank you Chad Crawford Kinkle for not thinking you needed to make a ninety minute film!! JUG FACE was perfectly paced at eighty minutes.
Don’t miss JUG FACE!! Kinkle is a name I’ll be looking out for and expect bigger and better things from. He made one helluva strong debut!! Don’t miss this one.
Director: Chad Crawford Kinkle (& writer)
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Gore: 4.5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer