This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
In most of "Jug Face," Lauren Ashley Carter cleverly uses her "Bette Davis Eyes" a.k.a. Susan Sarandon eyes: bulbous yet seductive, ingenuous, and most compelling. Judy Garland had them, too. But when Ada's (Carter) go all milky blue-white, that's when you want to look away from "Jug Face," for she's about to go into a trance as the spirit from The Pit takes her over. Say what? Yes, we're in a Gothic-Horror mode, with backwater residents that make the "Deliverance" hillbillies look like Hamptonites.
The other time you might want to shut your own peepers and invoke your favorite protective spirit is when the slightly deranged local potter (Sean Bridgers) carves a "divine"-inspired image on his most recent jug. You have to hope it doesn't bear any resemblance to what you saw in the mirror while brushing your teeth: if it does, The Pit has a death warrant with your name on it. In the cult-like community tucked away in a spot that might be North Georgia or Tennessee (where the film's debut director is from), all hold to the belief that a hole in the ground with suspiciously reddish, sometimes gurgling, liquid contains a spirit that protects the group. The price of protection is human sacrifice. Ritual throat-slitting on the edge of the pit forestalls disaster.
In this moonshine-making community, dinner is roadkill if you're lucky. The poverty is so extreme they don't need any extra grief. The ritual is not fully explained, but a prologue shows a brief visual allegory: animated crayon drawings of the beginning of some sort of religion: a priest, families in prayer by the side of the pit, women in bonnets with a Puritan look. The sequence adds another layer to poet William Carlos Williams' famous description: the "pure products of America go crazy—/mountain folk from Kentucky/or the ribbed north end of Jersey."
"Jug Face" marks the writing and directing debut of Chad Crawford Kinkle. He won a screenwriting award at the Slamdance Festival for this script, which he says was inspired by a pottery museum in North Georgia. His is not a name that you can make up, or easily forget, and I'm sure we'll be hearing it again. "Jug Face" is not uniformly polished, yet it's a breakthrough, not so much for gore, or terror, but because the director can truly do tension, maybe a harder trick to pull off.