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STUDIO Modern Distributors
RUNNING TIME 82 Minutes
– The Story of Jug Face
– “Organ Grinder” Short Film
Definitely not “the pits”.
Lauren Ashley Carter, Sean Bridgers, Sean Young, Larry Fessenden, Daniel Manche
Ada isn’t having a good week. First, she finds out she may be pregnant with her brother’s child. Then, she finds out she must be sacrificed to the local pit demon when her face appears upon the newest ceremonial clay jug that gets made whenever a sacrifice is needed. Ada hides the jug, which wreaks havoc upon her small backwoods community.
An opening credits sequence can make or break a movie. I’m not talking about whether or not the credits provide any eye candy or anything like that; I’m talking about the credit sequences that not only set up the tone of the movie, but also give the audience information they need without any silly info-dumps or pre-credits text. Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake did this exceptionally well with his use of Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around” and brief clips taking us through the zombie outbreak. It was quick, informative, and, most importantly, effectively unnerving.
Jug Face has a similarly fantastic opening credits sequence, though it sets up a very different film from Snyder’s. The whole thing is made to look as if it was drawn in crayon by a child, and it gets across the entire backstory to the film without ever saying a thing. The score by Sean Spillane is at its best during the credits as well, clashing against the childish images on screen with its ominous chords. It really enhances the overhanging sense of dread that permeates the whole thing, which is impressive considering the sequence runs about two minutes long. This dread continues for the entire flick, and is easily one of my favorite things about Jug Face.
I would never have guessed that this was writer-director Chad Crawford Kinkle’s first feature-length film, as he has an understanding of atmosphere and pacing that is well beyond that of most first films. Jug Face is slow, but deliberately so. It’s also the rare film that doesn’t keep many secrets from its audience; the reveals towards the end aren’t so much surprises as they are releases of tension. We always know more than most of the characters in the film do, and Kinkle uses that to great effect.
The performances are great across the board here, but the real standouts are Lauren Ashley Carter as Ada, our lead, and Sean Bridgers as Dawai. Carter essentially carries the film by herself, appearing in nearly every scene, and she makes it looks easy. Bridgers is one of the more relatable and sympathetic characters in the film, and his relationship with Ada becomes the focus of Jug Face as the film goes on.
While the involvement of Lucky McKee (director of The Woman) and the high amount of gore in the film have garnered it a reputation as a horror film, but Jug Face is really more of a family drama. There are horror elements, mainly the super cheesy pit child that visits Ada from time to time, but those mainly take a back seat until the very end. I must say, however, that the gore and makeup effects by Robert Kurtzman are stellar, and adequately icky when they need to be.
For the most part, the film really focuses on the relationship between Ada and her family, and the ways that their beliefs are interfering with their personal lives. It’s pretty tense all the way through, even when not much is happening, and that’s mostly due to the top notch score from Sean Spillane and the killer performances.
I’m having a really hard time finding reasons to not recommend Jug Face. If you can stomach a bit of gore, even if that’s not really your thing, I think you’ll find a lot to like here. The weird pit demon is really the only thing I didn’t like, and I imagine it looks the way it does for purely budgetary reasons, and I’m fine with that. The rest of the flick looks phenomenal, it has wonderful lead performances and a stellar supporting cast, it’s perfectly paced and unnervingly creepy at times. Jug Face is as good as debut films get, and I highly recommend you give it a shot.
This is your standard small DVD release with simply adequate special features. The inclusion of Kinkle’s original short film “Organ Grinder” is cool, but the behind the scenes featurette is your standard fare and doesn’t provide a terrible amount of insight into the actual making of the film.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars