“There’s some weird shit going on in the woods out there.”
I’m quite impressed with Jug Face, an absorbing and shockingly original jolt of indie-horror from writer-director Chad Crawford Kinkle.
I would almost venture to call it “magical realism” but that term fails to capture the profound depths of despair plumbed by teen protagonist Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter) as she tries to avoid getting tossed into a pit as a sacrificial offering to the nameless creature that serves as deity and protector to her ignorant hillbilly kinsfolk.
Jug Face is mighty grim stuff. Somewhere in the Appalachians, a degenerate community of yokels lives off the grid, dependent on sales of white lightning and dutifully tending the thing in the pit to maintain their squalid existence.
Ada, who has an arranged marriage to a doughy village boy in her future, is in love with her sullen brother Jessaby (Daniel Manche) who knocks up the unlucky lass whilst they’re cavorting in the woods.
Meanwhile, the thing in the pit is unhappy and Dwai (Sean Bridgers), the village idiot savant/high priest can’t figure out what’s wrong. Normally, when the god is restless, Dwai is compelled to bake a jug that looks like one of the villagers, who is then thrown to the deity.
So not only is Ada facing a loveless marriage while carrying her brother’s baby, but it appears she’s next on the pit parade.
The filth and blind ignorance in this hick settlement is so thick you’d need a weed whacker to get through it. It’s the act of “committing a sin” in such a terrible, unforgiving environment that accounts for the real horror in Jug Face, more so than the angry Lovecraftian entity in their midst.
Poor Ada tries everything she can think of to avoid the pit, but the superstitious ties that bind (and strangle) these slack-jawed citizens are simply too strong.
Reminiscent of Winter’s Bone, another film about an isolated community with its own strict code of behavior, Jug Face is like an anthropological field trip—or a bad dream induced by leftover Indian food.
In either case, you’ll be very grateful to wake up safe and sound in your own bed.