Review Rating: 7.5
A teen of a backwoods community tries to escape being sacrificed to the local creature-in-a-pit when she discovers she’s pregnant.
That is a so very basic bare-bones (pun intended) summary of the plot, which despite being about your typical backwoods hillbilly community, gives off a jarring (there it is again) number of surprises. The whole thing starts off with illicit teenager sex, all frenzied pushed-aside clothing and breathless we-could-get-caught scotch love before the main event. Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter) gets informed soon after by her all-knowing parents that she’s soon to be Joined with someone other than the guy she just humped, and is singularly displeased with it. Who will take care of Ada’s grandfather, who is ailing and can hardly move at all on his own, when she’s Joined and busy? Ada’s brother doesn’t seem too happy with the idea either, he seems to harbor a more-than-brotherly affection (if you want to call it that) for Ada, which all too soon leads to questions about the parentage of her unborn baby, at least for the audience. Ada is horribly aware that she’s pregnant, and has her own suspicions as to who the father is, but none of it will matter if her parents find out she’s not pure for her Joined bed. So Ada hies herself off to hang with Dawai (Sean Bridgers), who seems to be the village idiot type, drinking illegal moonshine and making clay jugs with faces on them. Why does he do that, we ask? And that’s when the movie takes a serious turn into the backwoods bizarre. Nevermind cannibals and inbred freaks, what lurks in the pit is actually far worse.
It turns out, in the forest of their community there’s this bloody pit and some sort of monster that lives in it, whom demands sacrifice of a live person and in turn provides miraculous healing for its tending folk. We the audience never get a close look at the pit creature, even with Ada’s damning first-person visions, which just adds to the mystery and primitive lizard-brain-fear these people live with every day. Personally, I thought it was a good choice to leave the bloody monster mysterious, never really seeing it or getting any kind of explanation as to where it came from, how the community ended up in a parasitic relationship with it, and no mention was ever made as to how to stop or fight the thing. Like the inexorable tide, the pit-monster has no pity or mercy, those are human concepts.
As often happens with these lesser-brained types, Dawai seems to be gifted, cursed more like, with visions from the pit monster. That is to say, Dawai drinks and dreams, and when he wakes he makes his clay jugs with faces, the face on the jug being the next person in the community to be sacrificed to the pit. Lo and behold, the next jug that Dawai makes bear Ada’s own face, who promptly freaks out when she discovers the jug and hides it somewhere in the forest. Dawai, who seems to bear more than a passing fondness for Ada, makes a new jug that bears the face of her intended, and with all reverent haste he’s sacrificed on the altar over the pit, while his crying parents look on. And soon after it all begins to go horribly wrong, with accusations flying against Ada’s pureness, more unsanctioned deaths being carried out by the pit-monster, and the whole community begins freaking the hell out. Can Ada save herself and her unborn child, and the idiot-mystic Dawai who tried to help her, before the pit-monster comes for all of them?
Parts of the film are slow-burn, yes, and other parts are frantic with the need to get across to the audience the sheer horror of it all. The pit and the monster and its magic aside, a great deal of the atrocities visited on poor Ada are the result of what the rest of the community, these other people, did to her and made her do to others. The concept of selfish sacrifice – I offer one death so that I, or my son, may live – versus sacrifice for the greater good – I offer the sacrifice of one life, so that an entire community may live and prosper – is brought across in a rather sympathetic way in the movie. How far would you go to save your children, your family, your whole community and way of life? Jug Face presents us with a horrifyingly realistic answer.