We’ve had several vampire films where the theme of empowerment was front and center, so I’m surprised it took this long to get a film that grounds that in the framework of traditional gender and marriage roles. I’m doubly surprised that Jakob’s Wife not only uses this framework well, but knocks it out of the park thanks to a powerhouse performance by Barbara Crampton as a minister’s wife who, once bitten, starts to realize how her needs and voice had been silenced in a dominating marriage.
THE QUICK SUMMARY: Anne and her husband Pastor Jakob Fedder seem to have the ideal, holy life. And if Jakob seems just a bit too controlling of Anne, well…that’s just how marriage works, right? When Anne is attacked by something in the town she begins get strange cravings, but she also starts to see how much her life has been subsumed by her husband. Poor Jakob: he not only has to contend with vampires, but he’s beginning to see that he may have been losing his wife well before she was bitten.
This film doesn’t work if you don’t buy into the relationship between Jakob and Anne, so as much as everyone is praising Crampton’s (deservedly great) performance, so much of it is due to the give and take with Larry Fessenden, who plays Jakob. Fessenden plays it great – he loves his wife, and he’s blind to the small micro aggressions he’s pushing on her. When he has to confront the fact his wife is a vampire, it leads to a great sequence where he finally hears her, and the resulting love scene is one for the books, even it’s only for the shot of Jakob’s fat ass.
But hold on: this is definitely not a relationship film. The horror elements are very present – this film gushes blood with the best of the gonzo gore films, and there is one blood-sucking decapitation scene that had me laughing with wicked glee. The “Master” vampire is a great design: you really don’t see much of it until the end, but when you do and things become clear as to what the vampire is and why it chose Anne the film really starts to tie all its themes and ideas together beautifully.
With a lot of blood.
Black humor, a lot of gore, a great vampire makeup job, and a real look at the way small things can drive a marriage apart make Jakob’s Wife a smart, entertaining little film. I’m still thinking through the last scene, which a lot of folks love but I’m divided on – all the more reason to say this is one definitely worth checking out.