Horror movies have done just about everything under the sun with vampires. At this point, there’s not much left that could surprise horror fans. But the monster’s legacy has endured for a reason. And vampire movies have recently started taking a page from their zombie counterparts. More specifically, filmmakers have increasingly used the nightcrawlers as vehicles for a variety of sociocultural issues. Even for horror fans who prefer their scares served straight up, new vampire-comedy Jakob’s Wife brings genre favourite Barbara Crampton back to the screen. Crampton also shares producer credits on what looks to be something of a passion project.
For the past 30 years. Anne has been a dutiful wife to her husband, Pastor Jakob Feder. She has stood by his side, supporting him, listening to him, and, oftentimes, putting aside her own wants and dreams. But Anne’s staid life changes abruptly when she’s bitten by ‘The Master’ – vampire hiding in the town’s abandoned mill. Now she feels stronger and more free than she has in her entire life. Yet she’s not completely free. Her newfound inner strength comes with an immense hunger for blood.
Jakob’s Wife Balances Scares, Laughs, and a Bit of Heart
For a small horror movie, Jakob’s Wife doesn’t lack for ambition. It’s part horror movie, part comedy, and part feminist essay. That’s a lot for director Travis Stevens (Girl on the Third Floor) and writers Kathy Charles and Mark Steensland to tackle. Yet Jakob’s Wife mostly succeeds at straddling its different elements. Despite our familiarity with vampire tropes, Stevens still manages to elicit some shocks out of the blood-spraying carnage. A UV teeth-whitening scene in a dentist’s office reminds horror fans that we can still have some fun with vampire mythology. And there’s a couple of decent scares in the movie’s abandoned mill. If there’s an area of disappointment, the movie’s ‘Vampire Master’ doesn’t figure nearly as much into the movie’s story as one might hope.
A UV teeth-whitening scene in a dentist’s office reminds horror fans that we can still have some fun with vampire mythology.
However, this in part reflects the demands placed on the movie by its other elements. Though vampires are indeed present, Jakob’s Wife is really more of a movie about marriage and gender roles. As the inequality of Anne’s marriage to Jakob gives way to his initial befuddlement at her newfound independence, Stevens lets the obvious humour in the situation take over. Where Jakob’s Wife diverges from expectations is in its surprisingly sensitive treatment of how Anne’s inner strength also rekindles her marriage. In fact, Anne and Jakob’s tricky navigation of finding parity in their marriage leads to a genuinely unpredictable and suspenseful climax. Of course, not all the humour hits the mark. In particular, Stevens’ parting shot feels a little too cheesy for the movie he’s craft. By and large, however, Jakob’s Wife succeeds at juggling all of its various ideas.
Jakob’s Wife Gives Veteran Character Actors Juicy Roles To Sink Their Teeth Into
Both Barbara Crampton and Larry Fessenden are indie horror veterans. Crampton built her early career in 80s horror classics like Chopping Mall, From Beyond, and Re-Animator, before roles dried up. Since Adam Wingard’s You’re Next, Crampton has enjoyed something of a career renaissance including 80s throwback Beyond the Gates and the strange Death House. As for Fessenden, he’s built up a nice resume on both sides of the camera. Small roles in indie favourites We’re Still Here and Stake Land alongside directing credits for Beneath and well-received Depraved have earned Fessenden his horror credentials.
She ensures audiences remain invested in the character’s arc even as she gets pretty bloody in the process.
Here, Crampton and Fessenden get to shine in lead roles. As the stifled Anne, Crampton makes her character’s transformation from bored housewife to empowered vampire a treat to watch. She ensures audiences remain invested in the character’s arc even as she gets pretty bloody in the process. Moreover, Crampton aptly balances the movie’s humour with the deeper character issues. As for Fessenden, he takes an initially frosty, unlikable character and gives him an equally fun and interesting arc. In one scene, you’re chuckling as the out-of-his-depth pastor proclaims he was trained to fight evil. By the movie’s climax, Fessenden has given his character enough depth to leave viewers conflicted about him.
Jakob’s Wife Has Enough Bite to Recommend
As a straightforward vampire movie, Jakob’s Wife hues close to longstanding lore. There’s plenty of fun vampire gore and a few impressive visual effects particularly given the movie’s relatively smaller budget. Some horror purists may be disappointed with the ‘The Master’s’ role in the movie. But in all fairness Jackob’s Wife is more focused on relationships and how women thrive or simply survive. And it’s here where the movie really excels in its balance of horror, humour, and subtext. Even if the humour occasionally misses – and its final shot feels cheesy – it’s this central idea that gives the movie its edge. If Crampton continues to take more behind-the-scene roles in her movies, we’ll hopefully be treated to similarly fun projects.