REVIEW: ‘Jakob’s Wife’ Weds Meditations on Aging with Good Ole Blood and Gore

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Jakob’s Wife

Who doesn’t love a good vampire movie? With a winning recipe of buckets of blood, horrific creatures, and perfectly haunting Gothic-inspired settings, the vampire branch of horror offers so much to the bloodthirsty viewer. Moreover, vampire films often dare to explore the fine line between man and monster that we’re all so familiar with. The best vampire films allow us to dance with our inner demons. In that respect, Jakob’s Wife drives a stake right to the heart of the matter.

Jakob’s Wife is written and directed by Travis Stevens, with fellow writers Kathy Charles and Mark Steensland . The film stars genre icon Barbara Crampton, backed with a fantastic ensemble cast including Larry Fessenden, Nyisha Bell, Mark Kelly, Sarah Lind, and Bonnie Aarons. The film enjoyed its world premiere at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival and subsequent screenings at Panic Fest 2021.

In Jakob’s Wife, Anne (Crampton) feels that she is disappearing in her 30-year role as the small, quiet minister’s wife in their small, quiet town. Since her marriage to Jakob, Anne’s life is much smaller than the ambitions and dreams she had previously had. She yearns to reclaim herself and a chance encounter with The Master, a powerful vampire, gives her the means to do just that. Suddenly, Anne has a voracious appetite for life… and blood. Anne finds herself torn between right and wrong, and the promise of an exciting new life versus the security of her marriage.

On pure horror mechanics, Jakob’s Wife is good ole fashioned fun! There’s so much to love about a creepy little town and a creepy little congregation. Instantly, the film conjures up nostalgia for that one abandoned house/warehouse/lot that gave you the willies as a kid. Throw in some great monster effects and buckets of fake blood and we’re in business! One never gets the impression that Jakob’s Wife has an overinflated sense of itself. It’s not pretentious, it’s grounded in its pulpy roots, and it seeks nothing more than a good time. 

An unexpected treat in Jakob’s Wife was its thoughtful discussion on aging, as a woman. Vampires have always been a symbol of carnal desire and youthful beauty. What could be more seductive than the promise of eternal youth and beauty? What could be more empowering than an animalistic connection to bodied desires and cravings? This is exactly the temptation that Anne must resist. 

In the hum-drum of her daily life, Anne placidly clings to beauty with her Jane Fonda-esque aerobics. She shrinks in the shadow of her husband. We are introduced to her as subdued and, frankly, asexual. The stereotypical portrait of a devout woman drained – through religion, through wifely duty, through small-town monotony – of her sexual center. We come to understand Anne through the context of past flings and college friends as something so much for. The viewer gets a sad glimpse of Anne’s vivacious past alongside her diminished present.

The experience of vampirism in Anne is an experience of the sensual self. It begins with her almost-affair, culminates in a relentless pursuit of her own urges, and hits a fever pitch when this exciting new relationship with her sexuality and self-interests spills over into her marriage. The Master puts Anne back in touch with sexual pleasure and gives some of her voice back, in her marriage to Jakob. 

Barbara Crampton does so much to bring that nuanced look at Anne to the foreground. As striking on-screen now as she ever has been, Crampton breathes such life into an honest look at aging and reclaiming parts of us that have been lost. More importantly, she accomplishes this by sticking strongly to the tropes and beats that horror fans love. 

Jakob’s Wife is scrappy, fun, and deceptively wise. On the surface, it turns out an enjoyable vampire romp that any horror fan can enjoy. However, through Crampton’s performance, the film dares to offer more to its viewers. I offer it a full-throated recommendation.

Jakob’s Wife will be available digitally and on-demand on April 16, 2021.

 

Jakob’s Wife
  • 6/10
    Rating - 6/10
6/10

TL;DR

Jakob’s Wife is scrappy, fun, and deceptively wise. On the surface, it turns out an enjoyable vampire romp that any horror fan can enjoy. However, through Crampton’s performance, the film dares to offer more to its viewers. I offer it a full-throated recommendation.