Friday, October 4, 2013

"Jug Face" (2013)

The use of religious imagery in horror: 3. Sociological Observation

“Jug Face” is a “matter of fact,” dispassionate, presentation of an animistic cult somewhere in the backwoods of the South. It opens with an animated credit sequence that gives us the background of the cult. It appears as though, during an outbreak of some epidemic of “pox,” the prayers of a catholic priest had no effect on the sickness. Someone in the community received a vision at a pit in the woods and created a ceramic pot with the priest’s face on it. When they sacrificed the priest to the pit, everyone got better. Since that time, the community has worshiped the pit, prayed to it for healing, and sacrificed people to it whenever the potter created a pot with their face on it.

As our story opens, we see Ada and Jessaby engaging in secret, illicit sex in the woods. We don’t know this yet, but their act is even more taboo in that they are siblings. Later, Ada visits the potter’s house while he is gone and discovers that the newest pot has her face on it. She hides it in the woods rather than face being sacrificed. Since the sacrifice demanded is not performed, other people in the community begin to get sick or even are slaughtered by an unseen force. After a while, Ada is forced to admit her wrong-doings and allow herself to be sacrificed to the pit to set things right. The End.

This film is most disturbing by its lack of commentary. The religion is wrong on so many levels, but it works. Thereby the people in the woods are slaves to a terrible power. Escape seems so close and attainable, but they are held captive due to their loved ones and the community that depends on the pit and the religious ritual surrounding it.

It is a good illustration of the condition of so many people trapped in religious lies and held captive by very real institutional and spiritual powers. One thinks of animistic beliefs, the caste systems in India, sharia law, or simple superstitious fears. The message Jesus brought—the one communicated in the Bible—speaks out against such religious systems. Jesus brought forgiveness and love. If we can just see the traps of sin and slavery we live in and trust Him for the freedom He offers we can escape. We can find a life of meaning where we can be the people we were created to be.

Perhaps the most pervasive system today is the one that thinks it is so liberated and wise. Western culture has seen the folly of animistic, superstitious beliefs but has embraced a new variety that is very similar to the one presented in this story. Instead of a silly pit, we embrace and serve our own limited understanding. We live in slavery to our own declarations about how the world works. We live empty lives and face meaningless deaths all because we have told ourselves that there is nothing beyond the material world. We see these sorts of religious systems as mere phenomenon to be observed and not terrible evils to be overcome.

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