Review: Jakob’s Wife 2021 Movie
This isn’t news, but horror/comedies are among the most difficult subgenres to nail as finding the right tonal balance can be trickier than sucking coagulated blood through a paper straw. Add in the ubiquitous vampire threat, and filmmaker Travis Stevens‘ latest film is fighting an uphill battle of sorts from the very start. That Jakob’s Wife works as often as not is no small thing, but the tone never really gels leaving its success to falls mostly to the combined talents of two leads whose energy carries the film across the finish line with a smile.
Director: Travis Stevens
Writers: Kathy Charles, Mark Steensland
Stars: Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden, Bonnie Aarons
Anne Fedder (Barbara Crampton) is a minister’s wife, and she’s exactly what Jakob (Larry Fessenden) expects her to be — loving, docile, demure, and supportive — but something within her is yearning to break free. When an old flame returns to town for a business deal Anne sees an opportunity to rekindle the liveliness of her youth, if not the relationship itself, but after allowing a kiss in an old mill she withdraws from any further touch. It’s good timing on her part as the man is quickly attacked by a horde of hungry rats, but her fear and disgust are soon muted by a caped figure swooping in from the rafters.
She returns home bloodied and pale, with her own taste for the red stuff, but while the physical changes are evident it’s her inner shift that takes center stage. Newly alive, confident, Anne is reborn — but what will Jakob think of his wife now?
Jakob’s Wife raises the kinds of questions we rarely see in film, horror or otherwise, regarding the identity and worth of middle-aged women, and if it doesn’t quite follow them through, there’s still value in their presence. That lack of follow-up, though, is on point with a script (by Kathy Charles, Mark Steensland, and Stevens) that also feels uncertain as to its tonal intentions. After playing its first act straight and teased with commentary on race, age, and responsibility, the film shifts into a far more comedic mode as Anne and Jakob deal not only with her affliction but with the master vampire causing havoc around town. Stevens does an admirable job trying to wrangle it all, but it’s clear his heart is with the latter and his leads.
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A young Black woman is the vampire’s first victim, and while Anne shows concern for her well-being that serious nature fades after she’s bitten. It’s a clunky transition as that kindness for others takes a back seat, but once Jakob’s Wife gives in to the genre silliness fans of both Crampton and Fessenden are rewarded with some fun times. The film’s highlight — and one of the year’s best scenes, period — sees Anne rearranging her living room, lifting heavy furniture without issue, and dancing to Concrete Blonde’s “Bloodletting.” It’s such a pure distillation of her newfound joy and ability, and you can almost feel Stevens smiling just out of frame. The films works best in these types of scenes as the filmmaker has clear fun encouraging the energetic silliness.