March 20th, 2021
MOVIE: JAKOB’S WIFE- SXSW REVIEW
STARRING: BARBARA CRAMPTON, LARRY FESSENDEN, NYISHA BELL, BONNIE AARONS
DIRECTED BY: TRAVIS STEVENS
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out OF 4)
One of my favorite movie moments of 2021 is in Jakob’s Wife, where the legendary Barbara Crampton dances with a lamp, spinning around, and it’s spectacular. There’s a lot of history behind the career of Crampton, which makes a moment such as this sound simple, but it’s worthy of high praise. To the uncommon horror movie fan, it might not be much, but as fans of all things Crampton know, this is a moment of a horror goddess letting her free spirit fly. Travis Stevens’ newest film is a merging of various tropes in the horror genre, such as vampires and religion, but it’s also a sneaky slice of delicious camp, making it some of the most fun audiences will have in 2021. Jakob’s Wife is a vampire induced fever dream, about a wife that strays from her preacher husband with the help of some vamp assistance, and ends up living a fuller, fanglorious life because of it. Jakob’s Wife is a perfect piece of horror movie fun.
The opening scene begins with Anne Fedder (Crampton) sitting with the congregation at husband Jackob’s (Larry Fessenden) church. Living in a small Louisiana town has left life uneventful for Anne, where she’s often following the path of her husband, ready to wave or nod in agreement with the way he thinks. After constantly being obedient, never speaking up for herself, Anne agrees to go with old high school boyfriend Tom (Robert Rusler) to view an old farm that’s set to be turned into the town historical museum. It’s strictly business and when Anne and Tom start to flirt, something in a big wooden box, a beast, a vampire of some variation attacks, leaving Tom a bloody mess and Anne with two holes in her neck. From then on, Anne is slowly and passionately becoming a hungry woman. She buys the unused meat blood from a butcher, drinks it in a glass, dances in the living room, and enjoys her new self. Anne is a very changed woman.
Something I love about Jakob’s Wife, and any horror movie that does this, is it proves any nay sayer of the horror genre wrong. There’s a wealth of creativity without a large budget here. Where someone would easily push this kind of story to the side as, “just another horror picture”, director Travis Stevens shuts those thoughts down. He clearly has an honest and educated appreciation for the genre. He treats the material like it matters, because to most horror fans, or those with a fearless taste, it does. The screenplay, co-written by Stevens, Kathy Charles, and Mark Steensland features themes of past vampire movies, such as Nosferatu, Interview With the Vampire, and the fun gore of Fright Night. When the production team involved is taking the material seriously, understanding when the narrative can have fun, and casts two horror movie legends, the final result is excellent.
It helps to have two game actors in Crampton and Fessenden leading the charge. Fessenden’s performance is solid, unafraid to sink into playing the church obsessed, stuck up minister, and when he comes to the realization that his wife has been feeding off the blood of neighbors or an unlucky delivery man, he’s surprisingly not as quick to judge. Love thy wife, right? Every other inch of praise belongs to Crampton. The Re-Animator, Chopping Mall, and We Are Still Here legend continues to reinvent herself, no matter what she does. Her character’s transformation is a series of delightful scenarios for a vampire, such as finding out what happens when you get your teeth whitened at the dentist, confronting the vampire that made her this way, and figuring out a way to cover up after a good feeding. From moment to moment with Crampton is better than the next, where she sinks her teeth into a role she was born to play. She makes Jakob’s Wife wickedly fun.
Then there is all the extra aesthetics of Jakob’s Wife that makes it the excellent horror movie it is. The narrative is a perfect balance of serious horor and well timed comedy. Anne looks up at Jakob in shock, body parts and blood around her, “Uhh..It wasn’t me!” And then there is the real looking, splattering, nasty, and practical special effects. They come into play perfectly with the bat-like fangs, drilled stakes into hearts, and an ending that couldn’t have been better. Jakob’s Wife is a new installment into great vampire horror movies, a breakthrough film for the directing of Travis Stevens, and a spectacular highlight performance for Barbara Crampton. She’s a scream queen and Jakob’s Wife proves that we should bow down to her.
JAKOB’S WIFE IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS, AVAILABLE ON DEMAND, AND DIGITAL APRIL 16TH
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady