The Pit (2013)

Chad Crawford Kinkle‘s The Pit (a.k.a. Jug Face) is a truly bleak slice of backwoods American gothic and although it paints a terrifically unfavourable picture of a small cross-section of our Southern American cousins, it’s an interesting and atmospheric take on an old fashioned story.

Ada is a pretty teenager who lives within a small community in an unnamed hillbilly-populated village in Southern America. This particular community, however, has a peculiar set of customs that extends beyond brewing their own moonshine. At the centre of their village is a muddy pit and in it dwells an unseen, mysterious creature that demands regular sacrifices. It’s a ritual accepted by everyone and involves one of their number, the dimwitted Dawai, receiving a vision of the impending sacrificee and turning their face into a clay jug. The ‘why’ is unclear but it’s an interesting plot device and results in a strangely memorable image.

Our protagonist Ada is a put-upon girl who’s involved in an incestuous sexual relationship with her brother and when she finds out that not only is she pregnant, but that she’s the latest ‘Jug Face’ and must be sacrificed to The Pit, she schemes desperately to save herself.

Whilst some of the accents seem a little unnaturally thick and exaggerated, the acting at the centre of The Pit is solid. It’s nice to see Sean Young leaving her days of being notoriously ‘difficult’ behind her and finally accepting the meaty roles that she deserves. She’s a primal force of an overbearing backwoods Mother and abandons all vanity to don unflattering, frumpy dresses and bad hair. Sean Bridgers is also noteworthy, providing us with perhaps the only truly sympathetic character in the whole film. Larry Fessenden is surprisingly great throughout too, at once an idiotic yet tyrannical patriarch. At the films heart though, is Lauren Ashley Carter whose wide eyes and pretty girl-next-door looks make her the perfect central character.

Produced by Lucky McKee, his influence is all over The Pit, in the best possible way. The tone is reminiscent of much of his fare and it also reunites Lauren Ashley Carter and Sean Bridgers from 2011′s The Woman. It’s bare-bones storytelling, with almost no effects to speak of, an unsuccessful and misplaced apparition/ghost aside. ¬†What effects there are are practical and tangible and all the better for it. It goes some way to proving that with a decent story to tell, effects and big budgets are largely unnecessary in this field.

The Pit is compelling while also being a tad predictable. It’s obvious from the outset that there are no happy endings here but it’s still a fun ride to watch the inevitably macabre events play out.

The name change, from Jug Face in the US to The Pit here in the UK, is a curious decision as Jug Face is much more evocative and distinctive, which is a real shame.

While The Pit’s storyline of an omnipotent being demanding sacrificial deaths isn’t a new one, it’s given a pleasingly original spin with interesting characters and an unfamiliar setting. For those who don’t mind their horror with a healthy dose of melodrama, you could do much worse than to check out The Pit.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

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