Friday, August 09, 2013

Jug Face: Anticipating the Feminist Spin that will no doubt commence

Before I give my ideological take on the soon-to-be released to theaters Indie Horror flick Jug Face, allow me to give a brief rundown on just how I became aware of this movie, and what initially prompted me to watch it. In 2008 I met Independent Filmmaker Mary Anne Benner of Ailgif Studios, who was in the process of doing a documentary on Street Musicians in Portland, OR titled "Artbeat of the City." I was interviewed for my street performing of original songs and cover tunes for spare change in the years 2008 - 2010. 

One other busker who figures into this story was also interviewed in the same film, the illustrious Abby The Spoon Lady. To make along story short, Abby and her bluegrass band has a cameo appearance in the Jug Face movie, near the begging during the celebration of the "Joining" as it was called, or "Engagement Party" as the rest of the world knows it.


You can hear part of my interview as well as Abby's for the Artbeat of the City documentary by clicking here.  Pardon my chipmunk cheeks! :p


And now that I've rambled on enough about that, back to talking about Jug Face.


I watched Jug Face as a Video-On-Demand available through Amazon.com prior to it's theatrical release. It's a good low-budget thriller that is not too long in length (80 minutes) and delivers what it promises: A gut-wrenching tale of Ada, a Teenage girl pregnant by her own brother, trying to keep the secret from the secluded rural community she grew up in, which worships an unseen being that lives in a mud pit. That and the fact that she also knows one other thing no one else does: "The Pit" is hungry for a new human sacrifice and she's on the menu!

You can get a good synopsis of Jug Face from a more qualified Horror Movie reviewer than myself, here. You can also watch the official trailer:

Now to answer the obvious question based on the title I've given this blog post: Just what makes me think that a so-called "Feminist Spin" will be visited on this lil' 'ol country-fried thriller? 

Oh, I don't know... perhaps this review from Katie Bonham on horrortrunk.com:

"Jug Face explores a plain and raw view of life, death, sex and the primitive values within this tight knit community; where girls are tested as virgins, and whipped if they go against community rules. Equality is dead...get your jugs out for the pit..."

Perhaps Katie was being tongue-in-cheek, but I noticed she only gave the movie 2 stars in her Amazon.com review. Not exactly an exalting acclaim.



But what of this claim by Ms. Bonham? Ada was betrothed ("joined," in the language of the village) to Bodie, son of another family in the community. It appears this engagement was brought on by a financial arrangement/transaction not unlike the ones found in stories of the Old Testament part of the Bible. And yes, Ada is tested for whether or not she had been sexually active as it may "disgrace" her family if she's found to be given away while not a virgin. She is whipped 'til her back is bloody for the indiscretion (how blind as a bat does one need to be to not notice the man getting whipped right beside her?). It's only after this that it comes out about her incestuous pregnancy. Well and also after the deaths of Bodie, her brother, and mother-in-law & sister-in-law-to-be.  

And there's where we need to keep perspective on it all: As much as the movie shows Ada as an oppressed figure, it shows everyone, men and women to be oppressed, caught in the web of this dictatorial folk religion. Four individuals die because Ada has kept her dark secrets from  the community, and only one of those was a woman. There appears to be no reason for Bodie to die, other than his connection to Ada. Her Father seems to have been taken by the pit also for no apparent reason. Dawai, the Jug Maker is brutally beaten and an attempt is made on his life, though he's completely innocent of everything that transpires. Counting it all up that's 3 male deaths and one false accusation against a man to 3 female deaths overall. Despite the meta-narrative we're often led to believe: the shape and nature of Oppression is not about how bad it is on the women, but how bad it is on everyone including the men. 

To add to the disturbing quality of the film, there's the opening sequence which shows a series of crayon sketches that tells a mini-story of it's own: Apparently the villagers were all devout Christians until one of their own became deathly ill. They tried praying for the healing of this girl, but it didn't work. It turns out that the local Minister was the 1st "Jug Face" - the 1st to have his likeness appear on a clay pot someone cast, and the villagers conclude that some force in this mud pit in the center of the community wanted a human sacrifice. So they sacrifice the Minister, and the illness is reversed.

The townspeople didn't operate under the "Patriarchy" of  Christianity, they rejected it. Women are not the "downtrodden" in this little society at all. Ada's mother Loriss is a control freak piece of work who gets away with abuse and a generally surly attitude. She is never taken by the Pit, although she seems more of a likely candidate than Sustin, her husband and Ada's Father, who is killed by the monster near the end. They lost patience with Yahweh, and made a pact with Baal. As a result, life only seemed to become better for everyone. In reality, they were the victims of their own sewing and reaping. Indeed, "The Pit wants what it wants," and their appears to be no mediator between it and it's faithful servants.

Up and coming Director Chad Crawford Kinkle does an excellent job taking this simple, low budget and basic story and giving it heart. The acting is worthy of a major-league budget film, in a league with the Coen Brothers 2000 flick O BrotherWhere Art Thou. The camera work is simple,yet straightforward and effective. Occasionally it gets a bit confusing, as for example when Bodie's sister is killed - she's washing clothes in the creek and doesn't appear to be anywhere near The Pit. But overall, it's a well told story and well worth checking out. Everyone will have their own take on the significance of what this film is all about. Now you have mine, for what that's worth. 



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