Jug Face (2013)
★★ / ★★★★
It has been some time since the community that resides in the woods has made a sacrifice to the entity in the pit. The process has been the same for years: Dawai (Sean Bridgers) gets possessed, makes a jug out of clay, and whomever’s face is represented on the jug is to have their throat slashed on top of the pit while everyone in the community looks on. Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter) finds a jug with her face on it. Not wanting to die, she hides the item, and hopes that nobody will know about her transgression. On top of her constant fear that the entity will take its anger out to her community, she discovers that she is with child.
Written and directed by Chad Crawford Kinkle, “Jug Face” works best when the paranormal remains a dormant cancer in the back of the minds of Ada’s friends and family and the forefront simply shows the terrible actions individuals are willing to do to satiate their god. If it had focused on regular people making monstrous decisions instead of showing too much via limited and unconvincing visual effects as well as camera trickery that distracts more than creating a convincing horrifying experience, it would likely have been a superior film.
We get a real sense that the people we are watching really do live in the woods. From their plain clothes, unhygienic appearance, down to the posturing when listening to someone speak, I felt like I was looking into their own world, not just actors trying to convey or deliver whatever is written on the script. Because the picture has a solid grasp on its setting, it is that much more convincing to buy into the characters’ way of life. It makes M. Night Shyamalan’s undervalued “The Village” look extremely polished. In order words, the writer-director has found a way to make the limited budget work for the story.
But then Shunned Boy (Alex Maizus) makes an appearance some time in the middle when increasingly tense and curious events begin to unfold. He is supposed to look like the dead or something of that sort but I found the character to function too much as a device rather than a part of a natural progression of the story.
We learn only one bit of information about him and it is not even that important. Why is he called the Shunned Boy? Is he at all connected to that entity in the pit? Why is he the only supernatural being that appears to Ada? What is his connection to the main character and to the community? These questions needed to be addressed. In addition, the makeup and visual effects end up making him look laughable rather than threatening.
The pregnancy subplot is handled in a surprising way. Instead of the screenplay going for a social commentary about women’s rights with respect to the microcosm of interest, it focuses more on Ada’s fear of having her two secrets exposed. Carter proves capable of communicating strength without letting go of the idea that her character knows very little about the world other than her own. We want to see Ada live and perhaps even permanently escape the lifestyle that she has grown accustomed to.
There is an intelligence and a willingness to take risks that I admired in “Jug Face.” Though it is not impressive work by any means, it is convincing enough that I feel the writer-director can only grow from here.