Writer/Director Chad Crawford Kinkle serves up a tale of backwoods horror and unwanted teen pregnancy in Jug Face. Jug Face is a somewhat typical, low-budget modern horror movie, focusing more on the dynamics inside a twisted hillbilly community than lavish special effects and expansive ideas. The best thing going for it is the performance by Lauren Ashley Carter as a desperate teenager, trying to escape her fate from the mysterious pit.
Jug Face is certainly an original take on backwoods horror. It is set inside a backwards community of modern hillbillies whom worship a pit on their land. The pit takes care of the community if they regularly honor it with a human sacrifice. The selection process is determined by a mystical force that helps the potter craft that person’s face on a ceramic jug. Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter) discovers she is to be the next sacrifice and hides her jug face, causing all sorts of problems for the community.
The teenage Ada also happens to be pregnant by her brother, Jessaby (Daniel Manche). Which becomes a serious problem when her parents arrange for her to be married to a son of another family inside the small group. The best moments in Jug Face are its treatment of Ada’s helplessness and desperation. Ada wants to keep the baby and run away, while her brother wants nothing to do with it. Ada is the protagonist of this story but she repeatedly makes decisions that get innocent people killed, hurting audience sympathy for her plight. Sean Young makes an unrecognizable appearance as Ada’s mother, a heartless woman who cares nothing for her daughter.
Jug Face works better as a character piece on this twisted community rather than true horror. Most troubling is the appearance of the “Pit” itself. It simply looks like a mud hole, dug a few feet into the ground. The supposed centerpiece looks neither fearsome or unique in its design. Why would an entire group of rational adults follow such an unimpressive looking hole in the ground, killing family members for its sake? Proper production design is a critical element in horror movies, even of the low-budget variety.
Let it be said that Jug Face is not without its charms. The ensemble cast is rounded out with a number of fine supporting performances, including familiar character actors such as Larry Fessenden and Sean Bridgers. The first act is quite intriguing before tepid answers to the pit’s mysteries are revealed. A more thought-out backstory for the pit might have provided more meat for the narrative. This is a film that should find some fans with its quirky cast of hillbilly characters.
Modern Distributors has given Jug Face a strong technical presentation on Blu-ray, given its independent status. The 81-minute main feature is encoded in AVC on a BD-25. The video encode averages 29.01 Mbps. Jug Face was shot on Arri cameras, though it does not have the clarity or consistency of better studio productions with that same equipment. It is framed in 2.35:1, presented at 1080P.
For low-budget horror, Jug Face has a high level of detail to its resolution and mild sharpness. Texture and other high-frequency content has not been manipulated at the Digital Intermediate stage. It has not been touched by filtering or sharpening tools, though a few ringing artifacts show up. A few of the darkest scenes have minor crushing, rendering shadow detail poorly in a haze of messy shadows. Black levels are largely acceptable. The color palette has been slightly drained of the richer primary colors, leaving the woods looking dull brown and green.
This is definitely HD video with a certain level of clarity and definition. Jug Face’s picture quality is quite good in its exterior shots, if a tad dreary and flat. However, do not expect demo material. Some hints of noise and other problems arise in a few scenes.
The only provided soundtrack is a serviceable 5.1 Dolby Digital mix at 640 kbps. I can’t really criticize its spread or fidelity, but the sound design is another matter. One of the more frequent sounds heard in Jug Face is a screeching, piercing sound whenever Ada experiences a vision-like trance from the pit’s creature. It’s such an awful noise that it becomes severely annoying and barely tolerable. Rarely does a sound effect prove so troublesome for listeners.
English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing are provided in a yellowish font. They appear outside the 2.35:1 framing of the movie.
Modern Distributors has included a couple of excellent bonus features. The documentary and short film might be more enjoyable than Jug Face itself.
The Story of Jug Face (28:28 in HD) – A great documentary featuring behind-the-scenes material and interviews with most of the cast. This is a fairly extensive look into the movie with a lot of neat production information into its genesis.
“Organ Grinder” Short Film (06:12 in HD) – A funny, gory piece about a woman fighting demon-possessed men in a very special way. It is well worth a look.
Trailer (02:06 in HD)
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