Doesn’t always play by the rules of the conventional vampire flick
JAKOB'S WIFE (2021)
A film that’s just the right amount of camp, has a splash of female empowerment, and buckets of blood to drive home that it is still very much a horror movie, Jakob’s Wife doesn’t always play by the rules of the conventional vampire flick. Wearing its limited budget on its sleeve and always making sure its audience is aware that none of this should be taken seriously, Jakob’s Wife is a roaring good time that also manages to push a message of female empowerment. A bloody horror flick with a message? Whodathunkit?!
This is one of those films that may appear quite simple in execution, but is far more skilfully handled on reflection. Travis Stevens manages to juggle the horror, humour, and heart of his screenplay; a collaboration between himself, Kathy Charles (Castle Freak) and Mark Steensland (The Special). Aware that leaning too far into the camp or the horror or the sentimentality could upset the film’s balance, Stevens manages to toe the line and adhere to the multiple personalities the film has without succumbing entirely to one over the other.
As much as the film enjoys bending expectations, the narrative at the core is really quite simple and not entirely original. The titular Jakob’s wife - Barbara Crampton’s Anne Fedder - is a dutiful wife, perhaps a little under the thumb of her minister husband, Jakob (Larry Fessenden), and though she still loves him, a sexual disconnect is evident. The disappearance of a young church goer sparks the film’s eventual move towards its horror temperament, leading to Anne’s encounter with a demon that leads to her vampiric change. The irony of Anne feeling more alive than ever in the throws of being undead is not lost on Stevens. Whilst the basis of the story isn’t exactly original, it’s the ingredients surrounding it that help the film feel invested, even if we are familiar with its structure.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
A staple of the horror genre, Barbara Crampton is undoubtedly the film’s most viable asset; the actress herself is a producer on the film, having spent the last 5 years bringing it to fruition. Aware of its comedic temperament, but also wise enough to never perform it as parody (more, a self aware mind frame), Crampton’s tongue-in-cheek approach consistently keeps the film afloat. Larry Fessenden wisely plays Jakob as an ultimately loving man, even if he’s rightly disturbed by his wife’s sudden change, whilst Bonnie Aarons (best known as Valak aka The Nun from the Conjuring universe of films) adds a layer of legitimate terror to proceedings as the androgynous creature that bites Anne and sets her on her path of reinvigoration.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
My word! If you want blood, there will be blood. A film not afraid to entirely lean into the exaggerated potential of horror effects, Jakob’s Wife goes all out on blood splatter. As over-the-top as it is, there’s something so joyous about going against the grain of subtlety. Outside of its gory effects, the design of The Master, the head vampire, is impressively unnerving, with the production crew essentially creating a gender fluid Nosferatu for actress Bonnie Aarons to delightfully sink her teeth into.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
As is the case with most horror films, sound is an important factor to its personality. Whilst Jakob’s Wife has the usual cues for accompanying its more terrifying moments, it also adopts an electronica sound that leans into Anne’s awakening as a lustful creature who you could imagine taking an unexpected lover home to feast on after letting her hair down at an underground nightclub of sorts.
A bloody, violent affair that manages to be genuinely funny as well as incredibly empowering in its depiction of women reclaiming their voice and power, Jakob’s Wife clearly revels in being more than the average vampire feature. Evidently crafted with love and absolutely dominated by the congenial Barbara Crampton (even when she’s ripping a throat apart she’s somehow delightful), Jakob’s Wife should easily satisfy the gore-hounds and camp comedy enthusiasts in equal measure.