19 Aug 2021
Kathy Charles, Mark Steensland, Travis Stevens
Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden, Bonnie Aarons
Veteran horror actor Barbara Crampton is having a lot of fun in Travis Stevens’ vampire flick Jakob’s Wife, perhaps a little too much fun. She plays Anne, the wife of a minister - the titular Jakob (Larry Fessenden) - and is about to wreak havoc on small-town America when she is bitten by “The Master” (Bonnie Aarons) and becomes a bloodsucking rebel.
Anne’s absence from the title of the film is an intentional clue to the thematic foundation of Jakob’s Wife. This is a film exploring gender inequality, feminism, and sexual liberation through the formula of a vampire tale. Having been unhappy living a small life, Anne is conflicted when the run-in with a bloodsucking demon gives her super strength and vitality - powers at odds with the quaint and biblical lifestyle she had. Her husband may preach the good word from the pulpit, even stressing the importance of being a good husband to his congregation, but at home, he is a dominant patriarch with little time or respect for his spouse.
The marriage is the most compelling aspect of the film, with Jakob undergoing a seemingly rapid transformation from hard-ass to bad-ass but the intensity of the performance from Fessenden at any stage in the movie is pure entertainment. The minister’s lines could be lifted from anti-feminism rhetoric, archaic objections to the liberation of women transplanted, in this case, onto monsters. He wants to “put a stop to this insanity before it goes any further.” - which could just as easily be about his wife’s appetite for blood as it could be about the feminist movement in general. Can they save her soul before the seductive lure of power and freedom get to her?
The practical effects hark back to Crampton’s 80s horror roots and work brilliantly. The blood and gore is full of theatrical splendour, adding a few litres more of fake blood than was probably necessary but all in good humour. The pink-eyed demon that was The Master felt a little more Power Rangers than Nosferatu but it was all forgivable in the grand scheme of things. Because, with Jakob’s Wife, the filmmakers realise the comedic aspects of the story are just as important as the horror ones, and this is one of its core strengths.
That and Crampton. She is on top form as the uncaged wife whose newfound lust for life makes her a formidable on-screen presence. The teeth whitening scene alone can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any of the best horror sequences of recent years and Crampton delivers it all with triumphant glee.
The combination of marriage stasis and violent supernatural intervention is a fun mix and the acting talent go to great lengths to ensure all ribs are tickled and all necks are gushing.
JAKOB’S WIFE arrives on SHUDDER on 19 August 2021