A horror that very much keeps with an entertaining 80s vibe Jakob’s Wife has its bloody cake and eats it. Successfully toeing the line of keeping true to its core story while having a blast. Barbara Crampton takes the film by the neck and makes the film her own. As entertaining as you can imagine it would be.
Anne (Barbara Crampton) is in her late 50s. She feels like her life and marriage with minister Jakob (Larry Fessenden) have been shrinking over the past thirty years. Then, through a chance encounter with a stranger, she discovers a new sense of power and an appetite to live bigger and bolder than before. However, these changes come with a toll on her marriage and a heavy body count.
There is a telling sincerity about the story it is trying to tell for all of the schlock and campiness throughout Jakob’s Wife. While this is very much a vampire flick, just under the surface is a discussion about the importance of women who feel repressed in relationships to find their voice as it is vital that they do. However, when that gore and dark humour enters the scene, the film can branch out that bit more. At times the film does feel like a throwback horror, and it embraces that wholeheartedly. This is the confidence in Steven’s as a director, he knows exactly what he is going for, and he makes sure he achieves his vision. For that, Jakob’s Wife becomes a great success of a picture.
Great moments are rife throughout Jakob’s Wife, be it the unfortunate dentist scene or the moment where Anne realises the capability of her powers once she has been nourished with a great end to that scene. But, the absolute joy throughout is seeing the dynamic of Anne and Jakob see-saw; at the beginning, Jakob has all of the power, the confidence in the relationship, dominating conversations and rarely letting Anne get a word in. However, after her business rendezvous and subsequent incident, Anne begins to grow in confidence with simple things such as haircuts and dress attire. An air of power begins to resonate. As she shows that to Jakob, he becomes unsure of his place in the relationship and the community until he decides he wants the old Anne back. But even if her transformation can be reversed, why should she let it happen.
Instead of just giving us these moments and moving on, the tremendous work from Crampton and Fessenden allows the small moments to hit you hard. Jakob is ignorant to Anne, expectant of meals, and happy to control Fessenden almost plays an antagonist. We almost root against him as the film moves on. Then we have Crampton, who utilises all of her skills in her performance as the underappreciated Anne. We see the fire and anger within her as she is practically brushed aside by her husband. She needs an excuse to break out of these chains, and we see that struggle in her facials in those opening scenes.
So when she gains that confidence, you cheer for her, her contempt for her husband has gone and in its place is an assuredness in herself and who cares about anyone else. Crampton plays up the transformation and has a riot with it; she is so strong that it always mystifies why she isn’t in everything. A strong performance from an actress who never falters.
Jakob’s Wife struggles with that script; thanks to the story and visuals, we see the repression of Anne and her release to be who she was born to be. So when we get several monologues from characters about how women need to be free, it feels redundant. Also, as we venture towards the end, the film takes a slight turn into the slapstick that honestly just about works. But, in the end, none of that matters as we see how much fun everyone is having here, from acting it up to the random buckets of gore thrown at us. This is an entertaining horror that has something to say, and it does it well.
Jakob’s Wife will be released on Shudder from Thursday 19th August.
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