Written and directed by Chad Crawford Kinkle, Jug Face is an assured debut feature from someone who shows great talent and confidence in equal measure. It’s also a film that takes a number of familiar elements and mixes them in such a way as to become one of the more strikingly original horror outings of the past few years.
Hillbillies, rednecks, backwoods folk, call them what you will. These people make up the cast of characters in Jug Face. They worship a pit in their forest, a pit that needs blood on a number of occasions, but rewards any sacrifices with a very special kind of protection. Sacrifices are chosen when a special potter (Dawai, played by Sean Bridgers) is given a vision, molds a jug and then the person who it resembles is chosen for the pit. That’s all well and good for everyone, except the person picked to be sacrificed. When it happens to young Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter), she manages to get her hands on the jug before anyone else, even Dawai, has seen the final result. She hides the evidence in an attempt to save her own life, but as the tagline says . . . . . . . . . . . the pit wants what it wants.
There’s so much here that just hits the sweet spot for horror fans after something smart, witty and fairly original that it’s hard to know where to begin.
I guess I’ll start with the man behind it all, Chad Crawford Kinkle. In the writing department, he’s created something intelligent and worthwhile without missing out the entertainment factor. In fact, the way that the film begins (a number of child-like drawings show how the pit is the centre of the community and hint to why that is) is testament to the way that this man treats his audience. Unlike, for example, Evil Dead, this film doesn’t need a few minutes of prologue just to offer up an easy, hollow scare or two. It doesn’t take time to stop and spoonfeed the audience for the entire opening act. Instead, Kinkle assumes that the audience can piece things together and keep up. He’s correct and that drip-feeding of information leads to a better end result (and an especially good “gag” involving the characters played by Lauren Ashley Carter and Daniel Manche). While his direction is solid, there are one or two mis-steps there. Nothing major, just some problems with visualising the reach of the pit and the forest elements created by it, but there is a lack of assuredness that never crops up in the writing.
Everything is helped by the great cast assembled. Sean Bridgers is the highlight as the poor potter who finds himself blamed when things start to go wrong, but Lauren Ashley Carter is also fantastic in her role (and very believable, a selfish urge to stay alive, despite it hurting others, is a very easy motive to identify with) and Larry Fessenden and Sean Young have a lot of fun as her parents. Daniel Manche, Chip Ramsey, Kaitlin Cullum and everyone else involved also do great work.
Jug Face has some wild, potentially ludicrous, ideas in the mix. Thankfully, it also has a very talented man guiding everything, assisted by the likes of Lucky McKee in an executive producing role and Bob Kurtzman supplying make-up/special effects, superb acting throughout and a whole heap of smarts.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: CHAD CRAWFORD KINKLE
STARS: SEAN BRIDGERS, LAUREN ASHLEY CARTER, LARRY FESSENDEN, SEAN YOUNG, DANIEL MANCHE
RUNTIME: 81 MINS APPROX