Every year there is that one indie release that really grabs me. That movie that strikes an emotional chord, that feels both cinematic and intimate. In 2014 it was Found, last year it was Androgynym and this year it is Jason Koch’s Pig Pen. This film is a masterful example of “true to life” horror, telling a grim story of poverty and the toils of boyhood. This departure from traditional horror is refreshing and really shows the signs of a maturing artist who is not interested in being kept to one genre. Pig Pen is a moving, but intensely ugly film that is just as much a thriller as it is a coming-of-age tale.
The story follows a thirteen year old boy who has recently been kicked out of his home by his mother’s maniacal boyfriend. We see him trying to survive the harsh world of inner-city Baltimore. He is forced to shoplift for food and find a way back home to protect his mother. What unfolds is a voyage of vagrancy and revenge that will ultimately end in blood (lots of blood).
Jason Koch really shines as a director in this film. Even when scenes seem meandering they serve a purpose that feels much larger than the movie itself. He took a risk, hiring his son (Lucas Koch) in the lead, but manages to get an incredibly honest performance that you rarely see in young actors. As great as Lucas’ performance is, Nicolette Le Faye is the one who really gets to show her range. Her role is so nuanced and has to portray kindness in a grisly world she cannot handle on her own. I would go into more detail, but I would hate to ruin some of her scenes that appear late in the film. What I can say, is that I am excited to see her take more serious roles and look forward to seeing more in the future. My only complaint was the end of the film. It bookends the story, but felt a little too unambiguous. Upon rewatching, I am happy to say that I now understand why Mr. Koch had to end it this way. This movie is not meant to be an easy viewing and is intended to challenge its audience. With all that said, I can honestly say that Pig Pen is the first great movie of 2016! Pig Pen will be released on DVD soon and is currently on the Film Festival circuit.