Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter) is a pretty but guarded teenager living amongst a small backwoods community in the heart of the Deep South.

Unbeknownst to her parents, Sustin (Larry Fessenden) and Loriss (Sean Young), Ada is having sex with her brother Jessaby (Daniel Manche) in the nearby woods on frequent occasions. So much so, she suspects she has fallen pregnant by him.

This is something Ada is able to keep quiet long enough for her expected destiny to be fulfilled: Bodey (Mathieu Whitman), the oversized and IQ-starved son of a neighbouring backwoods family has asked to be "joined" with her. In other words, she is to become his partner and sire him a baby.

But what if she can't have kids, she asks Sustin the following morning. The Pit will make it happen, he reassures her.

Hang on a minute.... the Pit?!

Yes, the Pit. The Pit is something the entire community swear by - a hole in the ground which dictates, via decades of passed-down superstition, that one of their own must be sacrificed on occasion to ensure the well-being of everyone else.

Local lad Dawai (Sean Bridgers) is a potter who is said to have a psychic connection to the Pit, whereby it will guide his hands while sculpting a jug so that he fashions the face of the next sacrifice into it. On this occasion, Dawai's efforts have produced a jug with Ada's face on it.

Horrified, Ada steals the jug before anyone sees it and then goes about her daily business. But then locals start dying in mysterious ways. Could it really be, as their loved ones suspect, the Pit is punishing this tight-knit community because it wants its sacrifice NOW?

Shielding the truth of her affair and subsequent pregnancy from her ruthless mother may be difficult, but fending off a community of staunch believers once they discover she's 'the chosen one', really does place Ada in a position of supreme vulnerability ...

From its chalk-animated opening titles sequence and the laidback, atmospheric indie-tinged soundtrack that accompanies it, it's clear that writer-director Chad Crawford Kinkle's JUG FACE is going to tread a slightly different path to what we're used to.

The score, a fusion of stripped-back guitar ambience and restrained country riffs, is indeed one of the film's strong points: it suits the laconic pace of the storytelling perfectly, and creates a tone that the rest of the film adheres to.

Performances are uniformly strong. Fessenden is typically brilliant, and looking more like a deranged variant of Jack Nicholson by the day. Carter steals the show, of course, her portrayal of innocence lost and a youngster struggling to be heard among her peers being what truly elevates JUG FACE above the norm.

It's interesting to see Young in such an unglamorous role, too. She has no vanity here in a strong role that ranks among her best work. Cruelly, it will probably be one of her least-seen performances.

While it may be too slow and character-driven for many, JUG FACE is never boring and is deceptively well-paced when you consider the incremental tension that comes into force during the third act.

MVD Visual's region-free DVD proffers JUG FACE uncut and in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The picture has been enhanced for 16x9 televisions.

Although shot with HD cameras on what was clearly a miniscule budget, the picture quality is mainly good. Exterior day scenes benefit from luscious colours and bright contrast, while darker scenes offer stable rendering of blacks with minimal noise.

English 5.1 audio is decent too, providing a clear and clean playback throughout. Such is the mumbling nature and broad accents of some players, though, that you may need to call on the services of optional English subtitles. These are presented in bold block capitals and are possible the biggest subtitles I've ever seen.

The disc opens to a static main menu which benefits from snippets of the film's moody score. From there, a static scene-selection menu allows access to JUG FACE by way of 8 chapters.

The best bonus feature is a 28-minute featurette entitled "The Story of Jug Face". This delves deeper into the mythology surrounding face jugs, and finds Kinkle in particular recounting how he stumbled across them during his travels through the deep South - and the inspiration that grew from there. It's an engaging documentary, successfully merging film and fact in interesting style.

"Organ Grinder" is a 6-minute short film about a woman who screws demons, with good reason. It's a sombre, gory and occasionally explicit film which is only marred by moments of unnecessary experimentation.

Last but not least, we get JUG FACE's original 2-minute trailer.

JUG FACE is an intriguing proposition; it's something genuinely different. Soaked in its own clammy atmosphere and more preoccupied with the torments of its characters than subscribing to more conventional genre tropes, it's films like this one that we should be celebrating for attempting to bring some substance back to the horror genre. It's a little rough around the edges, certainly, but JUG FACE still deserves an audience - and points toward Kinkle becoming a director of some weight in the future.

Also available on blu-ray.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Modern Distributors
Region 1 NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review