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Jug Face

2013 | R

Jug Face


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Theatrical release date

 09 August, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

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Jug Face Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, August 7, 2013

Horror films are a dime a dozen, often viewed chasing trends or lazily slopping the frame with blood to complete the genre task at hand. When a production comes around that seeks out a different tonal direction, it’s easy to notice the atmospheric changes. “Jug Face” is such a movie, with the presence of originality helping to make helmer Chad Crawford Kinkle’s debut feature stand out from the suffocating pack. It’s short (80 minutes long), sparingly severe, and mysterious, asking viewers to follow an unusual premise doesn’t reward with shocks, but a steady pulse of dread, making the macabre aspects of the work all the more unsettling. It’s a terrific picture, smartly made and sharply acted, and it’s one of the best chillers of the year.

Deep in the backwoods of the American south, an evil entity has taken residence in a pit that’s been maintained by the local community for generations. The pit feeds on sacrifices, selecting victims through clairvoyants such as Dawai (Sean Bridgers), who takes to pottery to shape the visage of the doomed, with residents clinging to the sinister spirituality behind this practice of identification. Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter) is a young woman in deep trouble, pregnant by her brother Jessaby (Daniel Manche) and aware that her face has been fired in the latest clay jug, forcing her to consider leaving her family, including abusive mother Loriss (Sean Young). Trying to hide the jug from view, encouraging Dawai to help her escape, Ada brings about tremendous confusion in the area, while the demonic force of the pit collects lives as a way of tormenting the frightened girl, weakening her resolve to flee.

With inventive animated opening titles, “Jug Face” sets up a complex idea with relative ease, detailing the history of the pit and its aggressive powers, turning nearby folk into true believers. There’s no grandiose summation of the pit’s powers or ultimate plan, with Kinkle treating the concept in a short story fashion, with community pressure the key to trusting the appetites of this hole in the ground, which is fed a steady diet of blood from those deemed worthy enough to be picked for sacrifice. It’s a corker of a premise, attended to with great tension by the production, keeping the audience aware of the pit’s influence through the process of selection and its omnipresent malevolence, viewed as a POV power that surges through the landscape, overpowering those meant to see its destructive force.

The gift of Kinkle’s direction is how convincing the pit concept is, along with the idea of pottery as second sight. “Jug Face” doesn’t have much of a budget to work with, but it manages to generate an atmospheric setting of submission and fear, employing a folk mythology that’s reminiscent of “The Wicker Man” if one squints hard enough. It’s a pleasantly creative endeavor all around, from its visual sense to the bitter reality of the screenwriting, which is brave enough to take the idea of the pit’s mercilessness and community submission all the way to its natural conclusion, never flinching or feeding into the temptation of formula. Kinkle has managed to find an original voice in a genre pockmarked with retreads, and his dedication to the raw reality of it all is thrilling to watch unfold, especially when performances from Carter and Bridgers are so nuanced and mercifully aware of the film’s tone. “Jug Face” looks and sounds superb, smartly managing limited resources to summon an unnerving air of hopelessness, locating a cinematic order to these characters and their distressed behavior around a bloodthirsty hole in the ground.

“Jug Face” doesn’t contain any overt scares. It’s not that type of horror feature, preferring claustrophobia to empty frights. It’s also not an expansive picture, electing to hit its salient points of misery and destiny, quickly wrapping up the movie with a disturbing closing sequence. Those open to the challenge of a more muted air of futility would be wise to seek out this gem, as few films this year have managed to conjure a similar confidence with limited resources. “Jug Face” is a unique vision; a frightening story told frighteningly, signaling the talents of Kinkle, who I hope will continue to resist the complacency of the genre in his future endeavors.

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