Jug Face is a tough film to breakdown and criticize. It is extremely well-made with what no one would refuse as an original story. It is an uncomfortable experience at times, and injected with the kinds of seediness you'd expect in a film featuring incest, filthy backwoods simpletons, roadkill for dinner, and Larry Fessenden.
In Jug Face, a young girl named Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter) looks her destiny literally right in the eyes and refuses it. This decision sets off a chain of events that will rattle her small backwoods community and leave behind a wake of blood. As simple a summation as I can make without sending readers less willing to sit through an uncompromising experience like Jug Face running for the hills. To offer up additional story details (as I'll do in a moment) is to risk turning off those looking for a more straightforward story about forest voodoo, but, you should know exactly what you're getting into.
Writer/director Chad Crawford Kinkle has crafted an interesting story here. It's layered enough to bring legitimacy to even the most absurd development, but purposely vague enough that the events of the present aren't overshadowed by the mythology of the past. And from a stylistic standpoint alone, Jug Face is very good. Its unique story is backed up by a great cast, including Larry Fessenden and Sean Young as Ada's parents, and Sean Bridgers ("Justified") as the simple-minded shaman of sorts.
Deep southern territory is always an interesting place in which to set a story. It is in these areas where ties to religion remain the strongest and the most unshaken. At first its people were only characterized by their religion, but recently, under the political microscope, their religion has come to define them. And it's made them an easy target for mockery. Their beliefs mixed with their unfortunate histories of offensive ideologies (and add a dash of that long southern drawl) can sometimes make them seem simple, foreign, and even intimidating. So, when you've got a film in which a small group of inbreeding families live deep, deep in the southern woods and who offer human sacrifices to a magical pit in exchange for said pit's healing powers, and when the person being sacrificed is chosen by a ceramic jug made by a simple-minded man with ties to a mysterious force, well, you might just respond with, "Yeah, and? This is the south, after all. Who knows what goes on there?"
None of that is really supposed to read as offensive; instead it's supposed to shine a light on the extreme chasm between the northern and southern sensibilities that have been in place since basically the formation of the United States. The north thinks the south are simple and crazy; the south thinks the north are godlesss baby killers. This is not something with which I necessarily agree, but a person can only resist such broad beliefs and stereotypes before some of them begin to take root. (I bet I'm one of the few with the balls willing to admit that.)
The events of Jug Face are far-fetched, ridiculous, and some might argue stupid. What's not far-fetched, ridiculous, or stupid, is that I could very easily read in tomorrow's paper that a small patch of isolated people living in the woods passionately believed in the power of a magical pit, human sacrifice, and anthropomorphic jugs. I'm not making fun. I'm saying this because this is where Jug Face is at its most affecting and powerful. When it comes to religion, people will believe anything. They will believe in the resurrected dead, angels, demons, magic, miracles, reincarnation, and anything else, so long as their parents before them believed it and bestowed it at a young enough age.
Jug Face is creepy, seedy, disturbing, startling, and a little fucked up.
And I highly recommend it.