Anne has been married to a small-town minister for the past 30 years. After decades of living in his shadow, an encounter with a dangerous entity breaths confidence and empowerment into Anne’s life, but at what cost?
Director Travis Stevens (Girl on the Third Floor) is back at it again with Jakob’s Wife. Written by Stevens, Kathy Charles (Castle Freak), and Mark Steensland (The Last Way Out, The Special), the film follows Anne. At the beginning of the film, Anne is a very reserved, demure, soft-spoken minister’s wife. Much as the title of the film suggests, Anne doesn’t really have any identity of her own. She is simply, Jakob’s Wife. That is until she has a run in with a shadow figure in an abandoned mill. From that moment, Anne’s life is completely changed. Not only does her outward appearance change, wearing more stylish, vibrant clothes and makeup, but her personality changes as well. She is more dominant and makes sure her voice is heard just as much as her husband’s. Anne suddenly has a thirst for life. Unfortunately, that also goes hand-in-hand with a thirst for blood.
What makes Jakob’s Wife such an enjoyable film is that it has many layers. On the surface, it is a fun, bloody vampire flick that is highly entertaining to watch. The filmmakers created their own mythos and vampire lore with nods to previous films while still feeling new and unique. Yet the story being told goes so much deeper than many vampire films. It is really the story of a woman who married into religion and transformed herself to fit that lifestyle. Then, when she gets a taste of a different life, she battles with herself and her husband as she tries to decide which life she will choose. It’s really a story of female empowerment and breaking free of patriarchal, societal, and religious restraints. Jakob’s Wife uses vampirism as a catalyst for Anne’s change as well as a metaphor for her mental, emotional, and physical transformation.
Horror fans are sure to love the cast of Jakob’s Wife. The shining star of the film is Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, We Are Still Here) as Anne. Crampton is a horror legend and a chameleon able to transform herself to fit every role. She really shines in this film as Anne transforms from a timid church mouse to a vibrant femme fatale. Crampton alone is sure to be a big draw for horror fans to watch Jakob’s Wife. Playing opposite her is Larry Fessenden (We Are Still Here, The Mind’s Eye) as Jakob. Another indie horror favorite, Fessenden really gives it his all to make the audience dislike Jakob right from the beginning. He talks over Anne, seems very full of himself, makes snide remarks, and generally treats his wife like a subservient maid. These two have surprisingly great chemistry that allows for some tender moments to break through an otherwise dysfunctional relationship.
The visual and artistic aspects of the film have some highs and lows. There is some strong use of shadow and light throughout the film. There is also great use of color, specifically the use of red as a color for female empowerment. The practical effects are gory and delightful. There are a few specific kills where the practical effects are quite graphic and surprising, but in a very good way. When it comes to the vampires, there are two different looks. There is Anne’s vampiric look, which is more simplistic and involves two very pointy front teeth and glowing read eyes. Then there is the look for a mysterious figure known only as “The Master.” At first, The Master is only seen in shadows. When the big reveal finally happens, audiences might feel mixed emotions. On the one hand, the look is an obvious nod to another famous horror film vampire, which is sure to delight viewers. On the other hand, the practical effects for The Master’s look aren’t as well done as the ones for the victims. Specifically with some of the face prosthetics and the elongated fingers, there is a cheapness to the look that detracts from the overall appeal. Luckily, Crampton’s vampire look is iconic enough to steal the show for a majority of the film.
Jakob’s Wife gives a vampiric twist to a story of a woman finding her strength and independence. Stevens clearly knows how to create a film that appeals to the horror hounds while also telling a fascinating story. It’s a compelling feminist story wrapped in a low-budget horror package. Crampton is an absolute joy to watch and Fessenden plays opposite her quite well. For the most part the practical effects are a highlight, even with the less than stellar effects for The Master. Jakob’s Wife might not appeal to a larger audience, but those who love horror will likely fall in love with Crampton all over again and the character she wonderfully brings to life. I can’t wait to see what Stevens does next.
OVERALL RATING: 7/10