Jug Face (2013)

AUGUST 9, 2013


Spielberg recently made some comments about tiered pricing for movies; he predicts someday that an Iron Man sequel would cost 25 dollars whereas something like his Lincoln would cost only 7. It's a scary scenario (more for the former; Iron Man movies are fine, but what if it's as bad as Wolverine Origins?), and if he's right, it will leave movies like Jug Face in a worse position that they're already in - horror's hot as hell right now, but it's going the same VOD first, thankless and minimal arthouse theatrical release later route as so many of its peers. It's already getting harder for these movies to get much attention without the benefit of a big marketing campaign or wide theatrical release - what about five years from now?

But, if he's right about the pricing, it'd be cool to see a movie like this playing at 1/3 the cost of the other films, which would hopefully inspire folks to check it out. There isn't much to it; it's one of those movies that I couldn't even give too much of a plot description without feeling like I was spoiling too much, so there is definitely some merit to the idea that maybe an audience, now used to films running over 2 hrs, should pay less to see this minimal, barely 80 minute movie. Especially when you consider that stuffing a lot of exposition down our throats is not part of the deal. Our characters routinely sacrifice members of their community to "The Pit", with the idea being that it will also heal them when necessary, and, like Children of the Corn and its sequels, their silly-sounding deity turns out to be real, but the key difference is we don't get much information (or even a real look) at it.

However, the gore and violence is kept to a minimum as far as the pit is concerned - the real meat of the movie stems from the many tragic effects of our protagonist's attempt to save her skin. Early on, she gets pregnant with someone she most certainly shouldn't have even been getting to first base with, and at the same time, finds out she is next to be sacrificed to the pit. So she hides the evidence of both, leading to a chain of events that sees many people killed for no reason - some by the hands of other townsfolk (which is to say backwoods hillbillies, led by Larry Fessenden), others by the pit, angry that it did not get its intended sacrifice. There are some weird ghostly beings and unexplained visions that flesh out the extent of the pit's power without ever really coming down hard on its origins (or how the hillbillies figured out what it wanted), enough to put this into the horror category - but mostly it feels like a hill person version of Fargo or even The Crucible, with one selfish act spiraling into unimaginable tragedy.

And no one is more tragic than Dewai, played by Sean Bridgers (the Will Ferrell-y guy from The Woman, nearly unrecognizable here with thick glasses and a fantastic beard). He's the potter who makes the titular Jug Faces, which when revealed will tell the town who needs to be sacrificed, and gets roped into helping "heroine" Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter, another The Woman alum) cover up her misdeeds and ends up getting the brunt of the punishment. While most of the focus is on Ada, Dewai was the most sympathetic character by far, and Bridgers is fantastic, playing many scenes with just a few sad, lovelorn looks to convey his state of mind. Hopefully at the end of the year, when folks are doing their "Best of horror" lists, his performance is remembered.

Like I said though, there isn't much to the movie, in turn leaving me without much to say. There are a couple of minor characters that seem to exist just to pad things out to that 80 minutes, and what seems like 5 different scenes of Ada hiding her jug face. And Sean Young's character just baffled me, hating her daughter for no reason right from the start, making it a shrug of a moment when she actually has a reason to treat her the same way she's been treating her throughout the movie (Fessenden turning on her after being the loving on was much more effective). Maybe they figured Young would be yelling and angry all the time anyway so why bother trying to get her to play someone a bit warmer?

I DO want to talk about the opening title sequence, represented with what can best be described the "motion comic" version of a child's chalk/crayon drawings. It runs just under three minutes and pretty much acts as a prequel, telling what I assume is the story of the first jug face sacrifice, though I'm not sure if what is happening actually comes across unless you've seen the (much clearer) movie that follows it - perhaps it could have been used at the END of the movie? But either way, it's a gorgeous, creative sequence; the type I wish I saw more often, and even if you don't realize it at the time, is also pretty much the only background info on the pit that the movie offers (which means that if you're watching at home and you fast forward the "credits", you'll be left with even less information.

In short, Jug Face is one of the more unusual genre films of the year, and should satisfy fans of the people involved (Lucky McKee is an exec producer), as they have a knack for these sort of "hard-sell", more dramatic horror films. 2013 has been a blessedly "original" one for the most part - very few remakes and sequels are popping up, while original properties like The Conjuring, The Purge, and You're Next (I assume) clean up at the box office, which can only help films like this get a little bit of exposure (as opposed to a time like in 2006, where you were either a remake/sequel or you were nothing). As long as people can get on board with the wacky plot, they should be satisfied with this little gem.

What say you?


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