It is a certainty that mainstream theaters are releasing horror films at all times of the year. Unfortunately, there is never any guarantee this type of screening is worth the price of the ticket. With this in mind, turning one’s attention towards lesser-known films can prove infinitely more rewarding than taking a chance on Hollywood drivel in terms of entertainment and sheer piquancy, especially in the case of Chad Crawford Kinkle’s 2013 debut indie feature, “Jug Face”.
“The Pit wants what it wants.”
After engaging in consensual sex with her brother Jessaby (Daniel Manche), teenaged Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter) fakes menstruation as she prepares to be “united” against her will with another member of her mysterious woodland community. To complicate matters, Ada also discovers that the mystical force ruling over her people, referred to only as “the Pit”, has demanded her as its next tribute. This is communicated when the group’s appointed potter and spiritual conduit psychically molds an image of her face into one of his jugs. Pregnant with her brother’s child and reduced to sacrificial fodder, Ada attempts to take control of her circumstances and fights for her life against all odds—even if those odds are backed by a supreme supernatural power that will stop at nothing to take her baby and her blood.
A fascinating element of “Jug Face” is its absolute boldness when it comes to taboo subject matter. The film opens with a deliberately arousing scene of Ada and Jessaby making love, then goes on to delay the revelation of their true relationship until the last possible minute. As viewers, our conceived sense of horror and shame is from this point on effectively carried throughout the film, yet perhaps Kinkle’s greatest directorial success is his avoidance of mismanaging Ada’s distasteful situation. This is not a cheap excuse to exploit deviant and confused sexual actions. Rather, the story is delicately guided towards being a concentrated focus on Ada’s youthful innocence and its unavoidable deterioration.
This is the story of a girl…
In keeping with the dictum of a typical indie horror film, the movie is upfront about its shoe-string budget by emphasizing its rustic mise-en-scene without detracting from the actors’ performances. Lauren Ashley Carter’s wide anime-like eyes and steady mouth translates her inner workings into a visual language so simply expressed that one can almost hear her thoughts, making her misfit character believable. Several details, such as special effects and script flow, are weakened due to Kinkle’s lack of funds and directorial experience, but thankfully Carter’s defiant and graceful presence is strong enough to smooth everything over. When the dust of the film’s climax settles, Carter emerges as the latest indie horror darling, in the same tradition as Angela Bettis (“May”, “The Woman”) and Katherine Isabelle (“Ginger Snaps”, “American Mary”).
“Jug Face” is not a perfect movie, and its themes are by and large not unexplored territory. The pressures of living up to society’s expectations, the prospect that human beings are not in control of their fate, and the futility of attempting to escape overarching powers are each often the essential construct of even the blandest of horror films. But Kinkle’s fearlessly bizarre debut is remarkable in the way it takes these conventions and unearths entirely new possibilities. The film possesses two key ingredients that are too often misplaced in movies, mainstream or otherwise—imagination and confidence. With its creepy and captivating concept and an impressive performance to carry it out, “Jug Face” is a unique and rewarding film that deserves to be seen by the masses.
Overall Rating: 7.5/10