With a title like Jug Face, you could get just about anything. Is it a satire? A basic slasher retread? A tale of haunted dishware? The good thing about an offbeat title is that it compels you to approach the film with a touch of caution and a dash of attentiveness. Fortunately Jug Face is none of the options mentioned above. It is, in point of opinion, a bizarre but confident and odd yet grimly accessible tale of bad religion, bad spirits, and very bad behavior.
More specifically, Jug Face is about a backwoods clan who worships a mysterious pit deep in the forest. Their belief system is such that a special potter will mold a jug, and whoever the vessel resembles is the next one to be sacrificed to the pit. Our anti-heroine seems doomed to become the next visitor to the pit's chopping block, but she tosses her "jug face" into the forest and starts scheming to get the potter to make a new piece of precognitive ceramic. Oh, and also poor Ada is pregnant, which is news that is sure to throw a wrench into the pit posse's plans.
If that brief description sounded interesting and head-scratchingly bizarre at the same time, then you'll probably have a good time trying to decipher the deeper themes that run rampant through first-time director Chad Kinkle's admirably askew Jug Face. Perhaps most interesting is how the viewer is allowed to see the story from inside the devout clan of pit-lovin' acolytes, so while virtually every character is unseemly or unsavory in very specific ways, their religious convictions seem relatively well-founded. In other words, these incestuous moonshiners sure have one crazy religion... but what if something actually does reside within that nasty pit after all?
Jug Face is more a movie of creepy ideas than jump scares, and it's the matter-of-fact nature with which the backwoods denizens are portrayed that keeps the movie interesting through a small handful of slow spots. Lead actress Lauren Ashley Carter is fantastic at presenting a girl who seems doe-eyed and entirely worthy of our empathy, but as the film goes on you may start to have second thoughts. The whole cast is rather impressive, although Sean Bridgers (who was great in The Woman) stands out as a highlight -- and yes, that's Sean Young playing Ada's domineering and sexually oppressive mama. (She's really good, too!)
Mr. Kinkle also gets fine assistance from low-budget horror stalwart Larry Fessenden (The Last Winter), executive producer Lucky McKee (May), and make-up / effects immortal Bob Kurtzman, but it is the director's steadfast insistence on presenting a potentially outlandish horror tale as plainly and realistically as possible that elevates Jug Face beyond that of a mere curiosity. I'm not even certain how much I "liked" the film, but I did find it pretty damn fascinating for 85 minutes.