Jug Face is an uncommon film. Its hard to place a genre on it, even though it ends up fitting snugly into the horror category, and its low on scares but large on genuinely unsettling and chilling moments. Character driven and story heavy, Jug Face shows off the chops of a slew of new talent and is a truly creepy movie.
The film takes place on a small backwoods group of people who are definitely a few decades behind the times. Ada, played by Lauren Ashley Carter, is a young pregnant girl who is finds out she is to be wed to one of her neighbors by the next full moon. Gradually, we hear numerous references to the pit and its eventually revealed that the group sacrifices one of their own to it. This person is determined by a face made on a jug by the community potter, Dawai (Sean Bridgers, The Woman). Ada discovers that she is next to be given to The Pit and attempts to escape from her ritualistic family and friends.
The movie is definitely a slow burn. A solid seventy percent of the film is spent finely building tension but its done so with solid craftsmanship. Director and writer Chad Crawford Kinkle baits the audience along with short and brief mentions of The Pit, glimpses into the truly backwards thinking of the woods folk, and a steadily mounting body count. While some of the more blatant horror aspects of the movie end up falling flat, such as the smoky Shunned with their echoed voices, the environment and atmosphere is so simply unnerving that its more than enough to keep the movie grounded to a disturbingly harrowing story.
Jug Face isnt a groundbreaking movie. But its exceptional on a number of levels and is so because of a powerful director and some great acting. Lauren Ashley Carter is terrific as Ada and Bridgers ends up performing on par as the jug maker, both playing troubled souls who are desperately struggling with breaking away from something they have blindly devoted themselves to their whole lives. The real shining star is Kinkle. The script is neatly paced, well written, and creates a subtle line of horror that breaks through in an era where in your face gore fests are all too common. He has a few missteps throughout but considering that its his first film, its expected. If Kinkle continues down this road its easy to see him following in the footsteps of new horror wunderkinds such as Ti West and and Adam Wingard.
Jug Face ends up doing what Rites of Spring wanted to do. It showcases a number of horror tropes but does so in a grounded manner that ultimately creates a discomforting and eerie world. Its a pleasant surprise, a low budget modest horror movie, that manages to introduce us to a new breakthrough director. Although it drags near the end and has some unnecessary cliches slipped in, as well as a slightly boring climax, its well worth the watch.