An interview with DEMENTER director-writer Chad Crawford Kinkle about working with his sister and the film's unique production.
Pod. 2015. Directed & Written by Mickey Keating.
Starring Larry Fessenden, Lauren Ashley Carter, Brian Morvant, Dean Cates, John Weselcouch, and Forrest McClain. High Window Films.
Rated R. 76 minutes.
If any of you may have read my reviews before, you might know that I’m a big fan of films which are of a specific genre and still they have the ability to cross over genres. The classic example is Alfred Hitchock’s adaptation of Psycho by Robert Bloch – the way we think the story is all about Marion Crane, but then Norman Bates shows up and the story takes on a different air. Same goes for Proxy, a viscerally intense horror thriller from Zack Parker, which I believe took much inspiration from Hitchcock and his classic horror film and seems to move between genres in a similar fashion.
So, for all its faults, I do like the way Pod starts out with an opening scene that’s very horror-ish, or at least highly suspenseful, then moves for a while into an extremely serious, often dour family drama before coming back to its horror elements.
Pod tells the story of Ed (Dean Cates) and his sister Lyla (Laurence Ashley Carter) who are heading up to a cabin in the winter in order to retrieve their out of control brother Martin (Brian Morvant). He needs an intervention of some sort. When they arrive, though, things are far worse than they’d ever anticipated. Ed is already worried, having received a frantic and terrifying call from Martin.
Once there, Martin tells his siblings he has something trapped in the basement, that there is a “pod”. He reveals scratches all over his body, infected and sore.
But after the worst happens, Ed and Lyla must confront what really is down in the basement. It most certainly is not of this world. Suddenly everything their crazy brother Martin had told them seems to be horrifying true.
I’ve been a huge fan of Larry Fessenden now for a good 14 years probably. I remember I saw his film Wendigo, an eerily low budget psychological horror, on some television channel late at night. Totally floored by it, I sought out anything he’d done before then kept my eyes on him afterwards.
What’s great about Larry is that he’s a fun horror director, while also popping up in the films of others as an actor. I think he likes to take on roles with young filmmakers he finds interesting, or just any filmmakers in general, young or old, he thinks has some talent. So to see him in this film is pretty great. He was in Mickey Keating’s previous directorial effort Ritual, which I’m planning to see soon, so I gather Fessenden must enjoy Keating and his filmmaking to have signed on for another of his films. He isn’t in this one much at all, though, to see him show up a little is enough for me most times.
Then there’s also the talented Lauren Ashley Carter who I’d first seen in The Woman and enjoyed. Then I caught her on an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in a decent role. However, it wasn’t until the film Jug Face, which I own and love, that I saw what Carter is really made of. She has great range, as is evidenced by watching her across a couple films.
Here she plays a young woman whose family clearly has issues. She’s an alcoholic, her brother Martin (Brian Morvant) is most obviously a man with drug problems and all sorts of other compounded issues. It’s intriguing to watch her here, as opposed to Jug Face in particular, because this character is even more complex.
I really found the chemistry between Lyla (Lauren Ashley Carter) and her brother Ed (Dean Cates) worked very well. The beginning of the film for the first 10-15 minutes is a lot of them, alone together as they travel to give Martin a sort of impromptu intervention. It’s definitely a rocky relationship, though, we’re able to glean a sense of their family, their past, and it doesn’t require a huge amount of expository dialogue. There’s definitely some of it, but we get tons simply from how Ed and Lyla interact with one another. Once Martin actually comes into the picture, there’s plenty more family tension and further dynamics at work.
We get bunches of history about the family, especially Martin. Turns out he did something pretty terrible to a woman named Edith – flashes of a couple Polaroids with a VICIOUS BLOODY injury to her face come up really quick – he thought she was feeding him arsenic, that she was a spy of some sort. So it’s obvious why Ed, and to a lesser extent Lyla, is reluctant to initially believe anything Martin is saying. No matter what horror may come later, at the time it’s certainly relatable and understandable; Martin’s got psychological issues, plus the fact he was in the military and who knows what he truly saw, but it’s affected him in some highly real ways due to delusional thought.
A while later, Ed reveals to Lyla that the woman named Edith was a nurse. Martin tried to essentially rip her face off and escape from the hospital. So again, we see more of why the siblings – mostly Ed as Lyla seems to believe Martin slightly – have a tough time trying to trust anything Martin might say.
This all sets up the drama of the family, but what that serves to do is make all the thriller and horror aspects of the script come out even more intensely, as we’re sort of riding alongside Ed and Lyla listening to the insanity of Martin before – BAM! – everything kicks in.
Loved the style of how the film was shot. Not only that, the sound design and the score helps the suspense and tension of so many scenes. One awesome bit is just before the 30 minute mark, as Martin retells the story of waking up in a government lab; he’s a soldier who’s clearly seen some SHIT. But what I love is the score, the sound design with its crackling fuzzy noises slamming loud with the music at the right intervals, and all the while we’re closing in on the door of the cabin Martin has locked. There are scratches around the door, near the locks, it’s clear something is in there whether brother Ed wants to believe it or not. Definitely creepy style.
This sets up a really great atmosphere, another aspect of what I love about good horrors and thrillers; any films really. If a nice atmosphere and tone can keep up throughout a movie, then there’s a good chance no matter what I’ll walk away with something positive to think and feel about it, even if not every aspect is great. What Pod absolutely has going for it is a tense atmosphere throughout, a dark and sketchy tone.
One amazing, brief shot is after Ed pulls Lyla off to talk in private. There’s an excellent slow motion style shot, as Lyla stares wide-eyed at Martin while heading upstairs; she sees her brother grabbing his head, like a million voices are pounding his brain, and he looks so tortured you can almost feel his pain.
There’s a genuinely shocking moment near the 50 minute mark. I knew Martin was pretty crazy, despite the obvious weird happenings at the cabin, however I couldn’t see what he did coming. Not by a long shot. I don’t want to spoil anything too much, so I won’t say exactly what it was, but be prepared! It’s not vicious, definitely gory though. Mostly it’s just a good, solid shock that puts the final half hour into a really thrilling frame.
Once Ed and Lyla open up the padlocked door in the cabin, I thought the room itself was superbly creepy. It’s cast in this reddish light, there are drawings and doodles everywhere, writing on pages just tacked to every open space on the wall – the set design and anyone who worked on the room sure spent a nice bit of time making the place look like the stronghold of an insane man. We’ve seen this kind of thing before, but the way Keating directs these scenes it’s definitely tense and has a spooky air of mystery.
My most exciting moment, personally, during the film is when we get the first bits in the basement. Ed is walking around with a flashlight, and at first it seems like we’re simply watching an angled shot of him, when in reality it’s a view from the eye of the pod, or whatever it is hiding down there. VERY VERY EFFECTIVE! I loved this moment because it was a nice touch, unexpected and a little unnerving at the same time, too.
I’m not saying that Pod is a perfect movie, not at all. My problem is that when I went online to see what people were saying, so many moviegoers – likely many of whom pirated the film instead of paying for the pleasure – seem to say “Oh it’s like an hour of arguing and screaming”. There is plenty of arguing, definitely some screaming at points, but what did you expect? This is a riveting family drama for the first quarter or so, then it plunges into a mystery thriller before hitting the horror stride full-on within the last half hour. I mean, there’s no real doubt Ed and Martin would be yelling at one another. First of all, Martin’s psychologically damaged, he’s probably taking some drugs, Ed is completely fed up with his brother. Naturally there will be some fighting. So I just can’t agree with anybody saying this is ALL arguing and yelling. It’s not. Plus, this is a horror film and there are intense scenes of – you guessed it – horror. So I don’t see it as totally unrealistic that maybe people would be yelling at certain points. You don’t think you’d be frightened? Not even when a hideous, terrifying creature of some sort is coming up the stairs out of the dark after you? I call bullshit.
With one whopper of a final 20 minutes, I can’t say that Pod is a bad film. Honestly when I go on IMDB and I see that a good indie horror film, with sci-fi elements, has a low rating like 4.5 (which would equate to about a 2 out of 5 star rating by my site’s terms), I’m consistently amazed at how lame a lot of people rating online have become. What’s so bad about this movie you’ve got to rate it THAT low? The acting isn’t bad. Lauren Ashley Carter does a great job as Lyla, Dean Cates is solid in his role as the caring and serious brother Ed, but can you really deny that Brian Morvant did a terrific job with the character of Martin? If you say he’s no good, I just feel you’re kidding yourself. It was a frenetic performance and it came off well.
I did love the inclusion of Fessenden, at the same time his character and how quick that aspect lurches into the film is one of my only big problems with Pod. I’m fine with the whole angle of someone protecting the pod, or having a part in the pod being there – whatever. The part I cannot abide is how swift that part came on, there’s no real buildup to this scene. I’m not asking to have things spelled out for me, though, there’s no way I can jive with how suddenly Fessenden’s character showed up and what he’s done (I won’t spoil it fully).
Ultimately, I’ve got to say this is a 3.5 out of 5 star film. There’s an intensely horrific final 30 minutes, beginning with a gory throat cut then introducing the alien/pod in the basement, which all ramps up to the creepy and messy finale as Ed faces off against whatever the thing is Martin had been warning him of all along. The effects are KILLER here and I thought the pod/alien design all around was so perfect! The sounds it makes at the end while fighting with Ed are outrageous, I loved it. Unsettling piece of horror with that small sci-fi twist.
See this and absolutely DO NOT pay attention to all the slagging going on over at IMDB and other online sources. People who probably don’t appreciate film are the ones commenting, I see many of them brag they’ve not paid for it in any way and downloaded it for free, so honestly I don’t take people that seriously if they’re not willing to pay for films. Just sours my view on someone’s perspective when they’re robbing filmmakers then shitting all over their movies.
So get a copy legally, watch it, then tell me how you feel. I’m not saying everyone will love it, merely I believe this deserves more attention than the people online are giving it. They’ve clearly not paid attention to the worthy aspects of Mickey Keating’s film because there are likeable elements which I enjoyed a great deal. Nice little indie horror film for a rainy day when you want to get creeped out.
Jug Face. 2013. Directed & Written by Chad Crawford Kinkle.
Starring Sean Bridgers, Lauren Ashley Carter, Kaitlin Cullum, Sean Young, and Larry Fessenden. Modern Distributors.
Rated R. 81 minutes.
★★★★★ (Blu ray release)
When I’d first heard the premise of Jug Face I absolutely knew I wanted to see it. Then of course I realized both Sean Bridgers and Larry Fessenden were set to be in the film – I was hooked. I’ve always been a fan of Fessenden in particular as a filmmaker, however, he can also be a treat in front of the camera. Bridgers came to my attention first through Deadwood, and of course more recently I’ve enjoyed his work in The Woman which also included one of the stars of this film I haven’t seen much of: Lauren Ashley Carter. These three in particular, along with a couple others (such as Sean Young whom I’ve enjoyed before in Blade Runner and Wall Street), really do a great job acting here. One of the pitfalls in many horrors, whether they be older or more modern, is that they’re often not well acted. Sometimes, if they plot is strong enough and the writing is tight, a horror can get by without stellar acting. However, if the plot or writing can’t cut the mustard so to speak then a horror really has to really on some decent, or better, acting to draw people in. If not it’s all for bust. Well Chad Crawford Kinkle’s Jug Face is packed with both great acting and tight writing.
The story is a peculiar and unique one, which is something I loved right off the bat about Jug Face.
A young girl named Ada (Carter), pregnant with her brother’s child, lives in a backwoods town where a pit is worshipped as a healing power for the whole community. In turn, one of the locals Dawai (Bridgers) is spoken to by the pit and told who is to be sacrificed. He then creates a face jug for each person. This person is given to the pit. One day, however, Ada finds a jug with her face on it, so she hides it. And this is the plot of Jug Face.
It is a fresh perspective on horror. It isn’t the typical backwoods slasher or “cannibals in the woods” type trope in the genre. This is a great way to use the backwoods setting and create something new to give to the world of horror. In my personal opinion, Kinkle has a great talent for the strange.
For the most part I enjoyed the whole film from start to finish. I only had problems with one part of the plot. I don’t want to ruin anything, so I’ll just say that it’s a little more than we need in terms of the supernatural – if the film didn’t have this little added part, nothing would have suffered. The pit itself is enough for the film. It’s mysterious to a certain extent. But this part (I’ll say it involves a ghost) just sort of feels forced. Ada, as a character, could have gone through the motions she does without Kinkle having to resort to a ghost as motivation. I love the character of Ada, and maybe I’m giving her too much credit, but I feel like she would have decided to do what she does without being lead by a ghost. It felt maybe a bit too expository to have the ghostly aspect in there. Though it doesn’t ruin anything. Kinkle still tells a fascinatingly weird tale.
As for the Blu ray release, I am highly pleased. The picture, of course, is absolutely fantastic. There are some wonderful shots in this film that ought to be enjoyed in the highest definition. It’s really a visual treat. The special features for Jug Face also surpassed my expectations. Not only is there a great little documentary feature titled “The Story of Jug Face” which runs about half an hour (includes cast and crew interviews and some behind-the-scenes filmmaking stuff that I loved!), it also came with Kinkle’s short film Organ Grinder. This little horror short, clocking in just past the six-minute mark, is a real shocker. I loved every single second. It’s about a woman whose mother is killed, after which she seduces a man possessed by a demon for purposes uncertain. We do find out her purpose near the end. What a great little horror. I highly recommend seeking it out. It makes this Blu ray release really worth it. Such a great addition to the film. You get to see Kinkle’s sensibilities in the short film coupled with those of Jug Face, and this provides a bit more insight into him as a filmmaker. Great stuff.
As a film, I have to give Jug Face a 4 out of 5 stars. It is a great movie with some interesting performances. In particular, Bridgers really does a fantastic job with the character of Dawai. Carter also does great work, as a flawed female character who is interesting, as well as strong. However, the movie is tripped up a little with the ghost stuff. It would have benefitted to cut that stuff out, and leave the film’s supernatural aspects to the pit, its mysterious powers, the cult-like community. All that worked. That being said, once again, this does not ruin anything. It’s merely a part of Jug Face I don’t particularly care for. Other than that, it’s amazing.
For the Blu ray release this is absolutely 5 stars. A wonderful documentary, which includes Kinkle himself talking about how he came up with the story and other bits and pieces about the process of making the film itself. Also, the fact Organ Grinder is on here makes this a must have Blu ray.
If you like unique horror, this indie film is worth your time. Kinkle has a great eye for horror. His story is fresh, and doesn’t get bogged down with a lot of the typical trash in the backwoods horror sub-genre. I highly recommend it. You won’t be disappointed if you’re into something a little different and outside the run of the mill.