Jakob’s Wife Movie Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Released by RLJE Films
Directed by Travis Stevens
Written by Mark Steensland, Kathy Charles, and Travis Stevens
2021, 98 minutes, Not Rated
Released on April 16th, 2021
Barbara Crampton as Anne Fedder
Larry Fessenden as Pastor Jakob Fedder
Bonnie Aarons as The Master
Nyisha Bell as Amelia Humphries
Sarah Lind as Carol Fedder
Mark Kelly as Bob Fedder
Robert Rusler as Tom Low
Jay DeVon Johnson as Sheriff Mike Hess
Phil “CM Punk” Brooks as Deputy Colton
“Were you ever really you at all? Or were you just Jakob’s Wife?”
Pardon my language, but that’s just goddamn perfect. That feeling when a movie gets right to the heart of the matter and then drives the stake in after a razor-sharp and perfectly-paced tension build is one that’s pretty rare. The part that still has me gob smacked is that I’m not big on vampire flicks; so many leave me cold, pardon the pun.
After knocking me on my ass with Girl on the Third Floor, Travis Stevens has taken the work of the thoroughly badass Mark Steensland (The Special) and unapologetically done it again. Using a stacked cast, a visual aesthetic that plays with every one of your senses, front-fanged rat vampires, killer music and a Salem’s Lot sensibility, Jakob’s Wife is a film that balances seriously over-the-top bloodletting with a submissive wife’s utterly relatable tale of trying to reclaim who she is.
Anne Fedder (Barbara Crampton; Re-Animator, You’re Next) is happy enough with her life. Her husband, Jakob (Larry Fessenden; Wendigo, Beneath), is the beloved local pastor of their small town. They have weekly hangout nights with Jakob’s family. She has her role to play and all the stability she could want, but she’s missing something. That need is about to be filled after she stumbles upon the resting place of The Master (Bonnie Aarons; The Nun), a hideous and ancient nosferatu accompanied by a horde of rats. Soon Anne is craving blood and avoiding the sun; she’s also awake and alive in a way that she hasn’t been since her blood ran hot and young. Anne is going to have some decisions to make, and she’s going to have to make them while fighting her blood lust with (or without) the help of God and his servant.
There isn’t a damn thing subtle about Jakob’s Wife in either its wildly shifting tone or the questions raised about not only subservience of middle-aged women but their whole identity, sexual or otherwise. Barbara Crampton is literally the perfect actress for the part. To say that she’s aging like a fine wine is a bit of an understatement; she’s having so much fun here it’s almost criminal. In a role that will go down as one of her defining performances, she’s doing some of the best work in her iconic career. You’ll rewatch her self-discovery/furniture rearrangement scene more than once, I promise. I hadn’t thought about Concrete Blonde’s “Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)” in decades, and now it’s burrowed back into my brain. Thanks for that.
The first act of the film is very straight and serious in its tone before changing rapidly into batshit form for the blood-spraying fun, and the tonal change is a bit jarring but also necessary. The best horror-comedies make the message (if there is one) work in the same way you help your quarterback by staying committed to the running game. The balance is a bit off in Jakob’s Wife, but that is easily covered by the chemistry between Crampton and Larry Fessenden. He’s a unique actor that makes everything feel just a tad off, and he’s killing it as well.
For that matter, everyone gets a scene or two to show you something. Genre legend Robert Rusler (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, Weird Science) is his usual cool self as Anne’s brief fling from the past, and Travis Stevens just had to get Phil “CM Punk” Brooks (Girl on the Third Floor) back for another movie. He makes an appropriately tough and full of himself Deputy Colton. Bonnie Aarons makes a sublime master vampire that combines the classic Nosferatu look with rat-style fangs. Rats are the forgotten harbingers of the vampire in film, often underutilized in favor of bats. Rejoice as the rat gets its time in the spotlight here!
While it may not entirely pay off the theme of female empowerment, credit is deserved for taking the focus and putting it on an age category often ignored in film. Back in the day it was known as “hagsploitation”, but that word is so laughable with an actress with the skill and natural beauty of Barbara Crampton. Mainstream critics and the like may not appreciate the roller coaster ride, but horror fans will appreciate a slew of genre vets old and new giving you something to really chew on.
Now, it’s about time to “tongue-fuck a hole in your neck until I puke blood!” How’s that sound?
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