Chad Crawford Kinkle’s debut feature Jug Face is not the kind of film we get to see often. That’s a good thing.
Probably best billed as Winter’s Bone meets The Children of the Corn, Jug Face has a bit more going for it than that. Although it is neither, the film locates the sweetspot between charming indie-feature stocked with enjoyable character actors and splatter-filled Southsploitation sicky.
Slick photography and fine performances belie the fact that this film probably cost very little to produce, making the movie a testament to the “talent and ideas over money” philosophy.
Although the protagonist Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter) and her family belong to a strange religious sect, what I like about Jug Face is that very early on in the film it dispenses with the ambiguity as to whether the pit that the characters worship has supernatural power. Although some of the trappings are there, this is not a film akin to Martha Marcy May Marlene or The Wicker Man where humans are the only monsters, here we’ve got a powerful entity that holds sway over the character’s lives and watch as they react to it.
This is a rural horror story the likes of which we never really get to see: one that treats its characters with dignity. The codifiers are all here: moonshine, a mistrust of the outside world, a dash of incest, creepy old-world religion, but the Kinkle never belittles his characters or treats them like hillbilly rubes. This not only makes his characters feel less like caricatures but it also makes the horror hit home a bit harder.
Nowhere is this dignity more in evidence then with Sean Bridgers’s character Dawai, the simple but kindly soothsayer of the group. Dawai is a character torn by responsibility to the girl he loves and both the supernatural and mental burdens he’s been handed. Bridgers was great in The Woman, but this character skews much closer to the affable lackey he played on Deadwood and it’s nice to see him back as a good guy. Carter is great as well, selling the disastrous decisions that Ada makes as not selfish but human. The cast is rounded out by Larry Fesseden and Sean Young (playing one of the creepier mother characters in recent memory).
Through a rural horror lens, Jug Face deals with the unchanging nature of fate and the difficulties of youth in a surprisingly deft way for a film with such a scant runtime and this much blood.
That said, this brings me to the lone issue I had with the film: the lackluster final few minutes. The ending of the film does not feel out of place either thematically or in the plot, but without giving anything away, it just feels like the movie holds on a scene and a half longer than it should. Despite my personal hangups with the ending, the film still offers a lot to love and I look forward to whatever Kinkle does next.
Jack Ketchum fans will recognize the film’s two leads from Lucky McKee’s The Woman, but that’s not the only crossover as the film was made by the Andrew van den Houten’s production house, Modernciné. Along with sharing producers, it boasts a score by Sean Spillane and ends up feeling like an easy recommendation to make if you enjoyed The Woman.
I purchased the film through Vudu, but it’s also available on itunes. I would imagine that other VOD options are forthcoming. You want thought-provoking original horror, check it out.
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that January 7th, Samhain will release of my second full-length novel: The Summer Job. If you like to be way ahead of the game, the books available to pre-order now through amazon, B&N, etc. Check out the cover:
If you’re looking for more info about that, I discuss The Summer Job and more over at this interview. Thanks to Jason for the questions.