The less said about Jug Face, the better. This is the kind of film you’ll enjoy more if you don’t know anything about it in advance, as I did.
But I’ll go as far as the opening credit sequence does, which tells the backstory through some animated crayon drawings. In the backwoods of (presumably) Tennessee, a small community of moonshining families has a bizarre pact with a supernatural pit in the woods. It’s not exactly a Sarlacc, but the pit does require periodic human sacrifice to remain appeased.
The process by which the pit makes known its requirements, and how the community responds, forms the basis for an interesting tale about fate, responsibility, and consequences. Lauren Ashley Carter’s performance as Ada makes all of this compelling. She’s a likeable and understandable young woman in the midst of a group of people you want to hate but just can’t.
In all, it’s a bizarre tale. It’s not going to win any awards or scare the pants off ya, but I enjoyed the novelty and solid story. It kept me guessing and gave me some time with some surprisingly sympathetic characters.
I have to admit, I fully expected the film to condescend to these backwater folk by painting broad, cartoonish caricatures. But it never did, and I believe that is a first in the pathetic history of hillbilly horror films. Nobody is deformed, everyone seems of at least average intelligence with most teeth intact, and the jug band scene is so short that I actually wanted more.
Speaking of the jug band, I was pleasantly surprised to catch a quick cameo of none other than Abby the Spoon Lady, who I saw busking in Asheville, NC, earlier this year. I spoke with her a little bit after her performance, and let me tell you, this woman defies your expectations. If you’ve ever laughed at the idea of spoons being an instrument, you really need to catch one of Abby’s mesmerizing performances.
Now that you’ve seen the film…
********** SPOILER ALERT ***************
When considering the insular nature of the community, the pit’s hold on it, and how one might escape the whole shebang, I couldn’t help but think about Kim Jong Il and North Korea. I recently finished a book that described how, if a citizen tried to escape or offended the government in some way, punishment would be visited upon three generations of that person’s family.
It’s a handy way for the pit to close that “let’s just leave the woods” loophole and asks an interesting question: Just how far is Ada willing to take this to save her skin? Everyone else seems remarkably nonchalant about their fate, considering it a privilege – an interesting contrast.
I know people will be divided about this film. It’s hard to argue that it “goes somewhere” by the end. It’s even a little cruel. Maybe I’ve just seen so much garbage and sameness that I enjoyed being taken someplace new with a tale well told.
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