Rising above its unfortunate title, Chad Kinkle's Jug Face proves a smart, often terrifying take on demonic forces and the lengths people will go to appease those dark powers. It's an story filled with compelling yet unlikable characters, bizarre cult rituals and angry gods. Jug Face takes more than a few left hand turns and is often head scratching, yet it's an ultimately rewarding film for the viewer.
Jug Face tells the story of a back woods clan that worship an unseen yet powerful creature that lines in “The Pit”. In order to keep the peace with the force, the families need to offer it a human sacrifice from time to time. They choose their victim in an odd fashion. One of the more feeble minded members of the group sees a face in a vision and molds a piece of pottery into the face of the person his mind's eye sees. Whoever's face appear is offered up as a bloody, cut throat sacrifice, and relative peace and prosperity remain intact. However, when the teenaged daughter of the family patriarch finds her face on a jug, she hides it, and all hell breaks loose.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that Jug Face stands out amongst the crowded indie landscape as the film carries an impressive cast and crew pedigree. Jug Face acts as a reunion of sorts of 2011's The Woman. Lucky McKee and Andrew Van Houten serve as producers here and bring back Sean Spillane to contribute to this film's soundtrack as well. Sean Bridgers and Lauren Ashley Carter have major roles as well. (The lovely Carter is quickly becoming the go-to actress for unwanted teen pregnancy borne of incest). Larry Fesseden's turn as the family patriarch almost guarantees Jug Face will be a cut above as he's lent himself to a string of quality indies as an actor, writer, director and guiding hand steering young filmmakers along the right path. More surprising is Sean Young as the domineering, bitter mother. Unrecognizable from her Blade Runner heyday, Young dominates every scene she appears in as a towering and terrifying figure that brokers no dissent and rules her children with an iron will. It's a captivating performance.
The interactions and depictions of this clan of rubes work especially well. Kinkle never lets the proceedings devolve into full blown mockery of this group. Instead of writing them with a hive mind, which is the easy thing to do when dealing with what amounts to a cult, each of the characters have their own voice and each have their own feelings and reactions to The Pit and what it represents. He also allows very little of the outside world to seep in, keeping the focus on the tight knit group and their odd religion. Make no mistake, these are horrible people, and even Ada-the would be heroine of the film-is capable of heinous acts of betrayal, yet they're equally fascinating due to the resoluteness of their beliefs. While the occasional supernatural aspects of the film fall flat, when Kinkle keeps the focus on Ada and her family or her oddly affecting relationship with the simple minded Dawai (Bridgers playing a role that will look familiar to anyone who watched him in Deadwood) the film works.
Jug Face is the latest in a slew of independent horror features that have crossed my path of late that refuse to be put in a neat little sub genre box and do what's expected of it. Kinkle isn't afraid to take risks and tell a bizarre and twisted story that pays dividends for viewers up to the challenge. Glass Eye Pix involvement means the film should land distribution in the near future, and horror fans clamoring for original content that avoids the “same old same old” would do well to put their money where their mouths are and seek this out at the first opportunity.