Director: Chad Crawford Kinkle
Cast: Lauren Ashley Carter, Sean Bridgers
Watch The Pit online in the UK: Shudder UK / iTunes / TalkTalk TV Store / Amazon Instant Video / Google Play / TheHorrorShow.tv
Let’s face it. Pits aren’t scary. The Pit, a horror movie out on TheHorrorShow.tv this week, then, has its work cut out.
It follows the rituals of a tiny woodland community, which regularly sacrifices villagers to the pit on its outskirts. How do they choose the next victim? By the faces on the clay jugs sculpted by local strange person Dawai (Bridgers). He wears glasses and occasionally gets possessed, so you know you can trust him.
Every time a new one comes out of the kiln, they leave the person to be killed next to the hole. Until one day, when Ada (Carter) spots her own visage come off the potter’s wheel and hides it in the ground. She looks guilty and has sex with her brother, so you know things are going to go wrong.
And go wrong they do – with spectacular results.
It soon becomes apparent that no one told writer and director Chad Crawford Kinkle that pits aren’t scary. So he spends the time zooming in on it as ripples move through its murky red water and ominous music plays. Nice try, Kinkle.
Ada, meanwhile, is being set up with Bodey (Whitman), a kind-but-dim boy from another family. But as her decision to hide her fate unknowingly spreads through the community, Bad Things Happen; her mum discovers she’s pregnant, more jugs are produced, and, inevitably, people start dying.
From Ada’s hidden sins to the white contact lenses of the haunted, this horror arguably isn’t anything new, but The Pit’s trick is to make it feel like it is. The cast make for a believably superstitious backwater group, while the timid Lauren Ashley Carter is just sympathetic enough to keep you caring. When she starts going all white-eyes too, then, it really does creep you out. Maybe, you start to think, that hole in the ground is a little bit unnerving after all.
Kinkle presents these sequences with a flourish of inventive design, dipping the screen in yellow, ramping up the speed and adding in all manner of freaky noises. The impressive sound design and solid visuals create a glossy presentation that complements the low-key setting: the story feels realistically small, but the budget feels deceptively big.
Things become increasingly predictable but that doesn’t stop the movie upping the gore count: red stuff splatters all over the place, as entrails are coughed up from the ground like an adult-rated version of Tattoine’s Sarlacc. The Pit, though, doesn’t fall back on blood for its scares: rather, it’s a slow build of claustrophobia and dread that nudges you to the edge of your seat, a mood that stems from the ensemble of actors and Kinkle’s assured direction. Themes of sacrifice and devotion are not explored as much as they could be – it’s telling that the film’s title was changed from Jug Face, which placed greater emphasis on the clay-based rituals – but they add an unsettling air of conviction to the village’s bizarre beliefs. In other hands, the idea of an evil ditch could seem laughable or dull, but here it works with an effectively simple punch.
A disturbing indie horror, The Pit marks Kinkle out as one to watch in the genre – and leaves you avoiding puddles for several days. It’s like we always said. Pits are terrifying.
Jug Face (The Pit) is available to stream online on SHUDDER UK, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription, or £49.99 yearly membership.
Where can I watch Jug Face (The Pit) on pay-per-view VOD?
For more on Shudder UK, including reviews of films available now, previews of what’s coming soon and an interview with Dearest Sister director Mattie Do, see VODzilla.co’s Shudder UK channel.