You know...I just can't help wonder what an Emmet Otter Jug Face Christmas might've been like.
Jug Face is unlike anything that you've seen before. It's got the kind of atmospheric energy that you might find in a Lucky McKee film...most likely due to his executive producer credit. It also has the kind of premise that screams originality, which isn't found in too much genre stuff these days. The more unique independent horror stuff I watch...the more I'm convinced that the genre will ultimately be in great shape, despite all the insipid big budget remake stuff that floods the cineplex every year. As long as we get films like Jug Face, things will always balance out.
First time feature helmer/writer, Chad Crawford Kinkle does fine work of creating a story that treads some familiar territory, all while crafting some fresh ideas along the way. If nothing else, you gotta really love the fact that you are seeing something altogether new onscreen. While not as proficient with certain applications like tension and dread as Mr. McKee is, I think it's fair to say that Kinkle's first major outing is an exceptional one.
After a rather fun chalk-animated prologue during the opening credits, Jug Face opens on two young teen-somethings playing a cute game of catch-and-fuck. It all seems innocent enough...because, well...don't all kids play that wholesome game these days?? Anyway, during their happy carnal excursion, the scene is inter-cut with images of someone creating some pottery clay art(?). I instantly couldn't help myself from thinking about Ghost. Also, a big muddy pit. I won't reveal much in terms of actual premise because it's important to go into this film absolutely cold...in which to truly get a feel for the complexity in store. Even tho you can pretty much find spoilers on the film's Wiki page. So, don't go to the Wiki page.
So, after the kids bang...it is revealed that someone has made a jug...face. That is to say that someone made a jug to look like a human face. You see...there is this cult of worshipers that live in the woods...kind of like those cults in films like The Wicker Man or Martha Marcy May Marlene or The Village (all examples of that familiar territory I mentioned earlier) and they have this sort of seer guy who unconsciously creates these cool-looking jug faces in the likeness of the next person to be sacrificed to this big muddy pit. Ok. Admittedly, this all sounds like something that someone made up during a peyote-fueled night in the desert. But, it's good...I swear!
The film stars McKee alumni Lauren Ashley Carter and Sean Bridgers, whom you'll remember from the excellent film, The Woman. Both actors are great here and both bring his and her own huge energy into this tiny picture. Bridgers is worlds away from the despicable character he played in The Woman. In Jug Face, his portrayal of Dawai feels more repentant and tender in contrast to the domineering prick that Chris Cleek was, which is a huge testament to his acting abilities. Speaking of great acting talent, Carter is no slouch, either. She plays the wide-eyed Ada...who is in search of something more. What that more is...she still hasn't a clue. But, then...most teenagers don't know what the hell they want. She's got a great face for the genre, tho...and, if ever Hollywood does start up those ridiculous rumors of a Suspiria remake again and it turns into an unstoppable thing, I would cast my vote for Lauren Ashley Carter as Suzy Banyon.
A really mean Sean Young and the always wild-haired genre favorite Larry Fessenden round out the top billing in this otherwise unknown cast. That's not to say that the acting is terrible, tho...as everyone is great in the film. They're just a bunch of...well...unknowns.
As far as titties and gore...you'll be happy to know that Jug Face does have 'em. Altho a tad on the morally repulsive side, Carter does unleash her lovely little flesh balloons early on in the film. And the gore is actually pretty damn good in the low-budget practical FX department.
As a whole, Jug Face is a solid entry into the world of independent low-budget horror. It weaves fundamental moral aspects of living in a big muddy pit-worshiping backwoods cult with more traditional supernatural elements and creates a unique experience fueled by strong performances. While not the transcendent genre experience that I was hoping for...and tho the film sometimes get muddled in its own atmospheric sludge at times, it is a good dramatic film that simply displays the consequences of failing to do the right thing.
I'm a sucker for cults and satan worshipers, and what-not...so, Jug Face hit a lot of those marks for me, personally. But, as a lover of all things horror, I found it to be nothing more than a late night RedBox rental recommendation. It's like if Moonshiners had a 3-way with The Burrowers and The Village...while The Devil's Backbone was watching in the corner. I know that sounds like all kinds of fucking awesomeness...but, it's not as great as it seems. Check it out...if you're in the mood.
Thanks for reading,