There are certain expectations associated with a marketed horror film titled “Jug Face”, mainly the expectation of a hulking killer with some sort of elaborate mask that gives the look of said jug face. Throw in an obligatory backstory involving why the killer wants to have a jug face and you’re all set to kill some squealing teenagers. That is the cinematic assumption that Chad Crawford Kinkle’s debut film Jug Face promises through the title alone. What is delivered, though, is far from that formulaic presentation. In fact, we are shown the complete antithesis of narrative formula. Kinkle’s Jug Face meanders and drifts along its minimal story with a less than subtle sense of social commentary, eventually leading to its quizzical ending that leaves more questions than answers. The question, then, is this: Is the misleading title a knowing diversion, a cognizant choice that encapsulates a film that intentionally works against known formula? Or is Jug Face just a confused, albeit daring, piece of filmmaking?
Jug Face begins with a real sense of confusion. Very little is revealed as far as world building goes. There are actions and decisions that are made with little or no explanation of their motivations. When the title prop, the jug face, shows up there is no previously established background on why this causes the fear and distress in the character who finds it. No, we as an audience are left in the dark for as long as possible. While this does lead to an unsettling and tense feeling, it also leads to a less effective sense of confusion. Not in an intentionally narratively induced, carefully crafted sense of confusion, but more of a messy “haven’t quiet nailed the script yet” kind of confusion. The set-ups and pay offs are loosely connected if in existence at all, and the performances seems frantic and ill-paced as well. In short, everything just feels kind of all over the place here. With the exception of Lauren Ashley Carter and Sean Bridgers, reunited from Lucky McKee’s The Woman, the cast seems to be in the same boat as the audience, only partially involved and wholly confused.
The narrative pacing and the performances aren’t the only thing that seem a bit off here, there is also the mixed themes the movie waffles between. On one hand it seems to be driving pretty hard at the historically patriarchal society we all know. Women are not only in glorified servitude, they are hated and blamed for all of the negative events of the film. On the other hand, the resolution of the film comes dangerously close to reinforcing that view. If those darn woman-folk would just know their place and do as they’re supposed to none of these bad things would have happened. While i’m not accusing the filmmakers of this view, the fact that Jug Face allows for that interpretation shows just how messy this film is.
When the end credits roll you can finally see what the intent was with Jug Face. From the Lucky McKee influence to the graphic display of gore, you can extrapolate what the filmmakers were trying to say. The fact is, though, they were never clear enough to say it definitively. There is a fine line between ambiguity in story and plain old messy storytelling, and Jug Face slips into the latter pretty comfortably. In the same way that a person tells a story and ends with “you know what I mean?” to clarify their intent, Jug Face clumsily lurches to its ending and looks to the viewer and says “you know what we mean right?”.