Anne (Barbara Crampton) is married to small town minister Jakob (Larry Fessenden), although their marriage is in trouble. Jakob doesn’t listen to Anne. He speaks over her, and on her behalf, and his overbearing behaviour has Anne questioning whether she wants to stay.
So, Anne reconnects with an old flame, Tom (Robert Rusler). While out together, they are attacked by a supernatural creature, turning Anne into a vampire. As luck would have it, vampirism turns out to be just the boost she needs. Anne’s newfound blood lust and aversion to sunlight come hand-in-hand with assertiveness and self-confidence.
Unfortunately, you can’t be a vampire in a small town for long before somebody starts to notice. Local police begin to snoop around the various disappearances, and when Jakob discovers the truth, he and Anne set out to find and destroy the head vampire, The Master.
Jakob’s Wife is the second feature from director Travis Stevens, whose creepy 2019 horror debut, Girl on the Third Floor, is currently streaming on Netflix.
Although ostensibly standard vampire fare, Jakob’s Wife should certainly get some credit for using horror as a way to question behaviours toward women. Jakob’s superiority complex and boorish need to impose himself over every interaction, gradually chip away at Anne’s confidence. Even the title of the movie is a reference to how the community sees her – not by her name, but as Jakob’s wife.
But the message gets a little tangled when Anne and Jakob team up. While vampire Anne stands up for herself, it’s hard to tell if Jakob has really learnt any lessons. The message seems to devolve into Jakob needing to fight harder for his marriage, rather than look inward at how his actions may have contributed to its decline.
However, even when the plot sags a little in the middle, this is Barbara Crampton’s movie – and that means it’s always watchable. It would be fair to say that Crampton is horror royalty, with a career spanning splatter classics Re-Animator and From Beyond through to modern slasher / thrillers like You’re Next. She is great in the lead role, convincingly showing Anne in the two stages of her (after) life – bored and mild mannered, and then showcasing confident, glamourous vampirism.
There are also some nice effects and makeup work that alternate between the charmingly lo-fi and impressively visceral, with a whole bunch of arterial bloodletting and enthusiastic decapitations going on. The vampire aesthetic also dispenses with the popular, sophisticated, pointy canines, favouring a style closer to the elongated, squiggly incisors of Kurt Barlow from Salem’s Lot or F.W. Murnau’s classic Nosferatu.
As a straight vampire yarn, originality might be at a bit of a premium at times, but that’s more to do with the vampire genre as a whole, than Jakob’s Wife specifically. It at least attempts to ask a few questions and provide more food for thought than the average bloodsucker. So while Jakob’s Wife is unlikely to be a genre break out, for vampire fans and horror nerds, it’s a solid watch.
‘Jakob’s Wife’ will be streaming on Shudder from August 19th.