When Dawai makes a clay pot of a face that belongs to a member of a close knitted community in an undefined American outback, that person must be sacrificed to a pit. The pit holds incredible healing powers, but its gifts don’t come for free. Ada, a young woman in the same community, one day finds her own face on a jug, and everything in her world comes apart. But she isn’t ready for the pit, and she decides to do something about it.
The setting in Jug Face reminded me of Winter’s Bone, with its overwhelming poverty and complete closed towards the rest of the world. Family members seem a little too close, and moonshine runs like water. In other words, it’s Hillbilly central, but without the lighthearted comic element.
Here, Ada stumbles and falls in every imaginable way as she tries to postpone a horrible ordeal that awaits her. Her decisions aren’t thought out but seem more like a nervous reactions that come from a terrified child. Lauren Ashley Carte has successfully presented Ada as a frightened girl that is becoming (or has become) a woman in a twisted, hellish ambient. Sean Bridgers as the gentle Dawai is also very impressive, and his character becomes more and more important as the movie progresses.
There is an interesting and unusual combination in this film. Melancholy and sadness that the writer/director Chad Crawford Kinkle uses when he presents the families and their grief and anger are incorporated in an incredibly violent and cruel mindset shared by the community. The main antagonist, the pit, or whatever it truly is, is never presented in full view. The only thing that sort of speaks for it, apart from Dawai, who only makes the jugs, is a spirit that interacts with Ada. Yet even here we don’t get a picture of a monster or a boogeyman. Kinkle did a great thing by adding murkiness to the pit’s motives and steered clear of the classic backwater horror tale.
Also, one of the stronger sides of the film is a great soundtrack, mostly consisting of slow, country tunes with an eerie undertone. It adds a lot to the grim atmosphere, and the film doesn’t overuse this musical edge.
The script is unapologetic, and the ending is bleak and hard hitting. This is no surprise, having in mind that the film steadily builds toward this conclusion. Jug Face is a film that, like We Are What We Are, manages to bridge the genres of drama and horror. It has a forest, a small cult-like group of people and an unseen monster, but it's a lot more than a run-of-the-mill horror story.