Jakob's Wife Movie Review
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Jakob’s Wife (2021) is both your typical vampire film and deeper like you’ve never seen.
Being a Pastor’s wife can be a thankless job, just ask Ann (Barbara Crampton). She dutifully carries out her responsibilities in the shadow of her larger-than-life husband, Jakob (Larry Fessenden), never contradicting him, always silent. It isn’t that Ann is unhappy, but she is interrupted, spoken over, and ignored. As her husband preaches the importance of wives and mothers to his small but dedicated congregation, she feels the hypocrisy in her day-to-day life. Still, she has resigned to being the literal church mouse her husband married. After a chance encounter with an old fling in the basement of a new shopping development, Ann is attacked, and her unlife is never the same.
Travis Stevens, whose SXSW 2019 entry brought us The Girl on the Third Floor again explores unhappiness through the lens of subtle marital power struggles in Jakob’s Wife. As the needs of one cow the needs of the other, the opportunity to become something more arises, and the temptation to leave everything behind is almost insurmountable. Ann loves her husband and her quiet, predictable life, even she’s been reduced to cook and maid. Ann can become a slave to a new Master (the incredible Bonnie Aarons) and her needs and desires, but is she ready to be just another slave? As Ann finds her voice, and as people die around her – you know, because there’s a vampire loose – she has to decide how many masters she can faithfully serve.
On an empty stomach, anyway.
I enjoy the domestic humanity and depth woven into Steven’s films, and no character simply exists on a page. Ann isn’t just a housewife. Jakob isn’t just a pastor – they’re a couple, and they love each other. The opening scenes where Jakob treats his wife as window dressing contrast sharply with his realization that a, he has never stopped loving her and, b, will never stop fighting for her. It’s rare to see a long-term relationship in a horror movie that doesn’t feel like strung together cliches. Jakob’s Wife is a small-town vampire film without dusty books, budding slayers, or wizened elders. It’s two people drifting apart and finding creative solutions to keep their marriage (and each other) alive.
Jakob’s Wife has picked up distribution through the horror streaming service Shudder and is Unrated. By my little eye, it would be Rated-R for swears, sexy-times, nudity, staking, throat-ripping, and tubs of blood.