I’ve never been one for organized religion. Growing up in rural Tennessee provided me with multiple opportunities to discover that the Christian way of life simply isn’t for me. Before I was the age of 10, I had already begun the embarrassing transition to social outcast and “devil worshiper” that would stick with me, mostly, to this day in the small town I was raised in. Truth be told, it wasn’t that bad. Sometimes it was even fun.
What I didn’t realize until very recently is that those that choose to stay within the church, specifically young women, are often led down a path of obedience and submissiveness that they have very little control over. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cringed at a Christian friend’s wedding when the pastor goes on and on about the wife submitting, respecting, and obeying the husband. It gets really weird when the wife starts to wash the husband’s feet. I’ve seen this more than once, and as a dude that knows fuck-all about why it’s happening, it’s creepy.
My wife left the Christian church just before we met, and the amount of un-learning that I’ve witnessed firsthand is both astonishing and illuminating. To me, that’s what Jakob’s Wife is all about, and it hit me harder than I had expected.
Genre favorite Barbra Crampton delivers her best performance yet as Anne Fedder; the quiet and obedient wife of local minister, Jakob Fedder (Larry Fessenden). When the audience is first introduced to Anne, she’s little more than a pretty face standing next to her man. She’s rarely spoken to directly, and when she is, her responses seem measured and apprehensive. Her entire existence seems to be structured around ensuring Jakob is tended to and satisfied.
Jakob, while not overtly cruel or violent, has come to expect certain behavior from his wife. He’s not a villain, but he’s clearly a believer in the institution of a Christian marriage—and he expects his wife to be the same. But when people begin to disappear from their quiet town and Anne reconnects with a former boyfriend, Jakob and Anne’s relationship is put to a gory and gruesome test. When Anne walks away from her friendly reunion with a newfound taste for human blood, Jakob must come to terms with the spiritual awakening inside of her.
While Jakob’s Wife is, for all intents and purposes, a vampire film, it’s the way that the script handles the complicated subject of marriage that wins me over. Anne has changed who she is as a person—and she likes it. But is there any room in this faithful union for two freethinking individuals? Will Jakob fight for his wife’s individuality? Can a little bit of weed and open conversation actually fix everything?! These are the questions that made me love Travis Stevens, Kathy Charles, and Mark Steensland’s silly and heartfelt tale of blood, guts, and unholy matrimony.
David Matthews’ cinematography frames up the small town perfectly while Tara Busch provides a delicious audible backdrop for the murder and mystery on screen. And when it comes to kill scenes, I believe we’re starting to understand how director Travis Stevens likes his SFX—practical and wet. Jakob’s Wife has some of the most hyper-violent deaths that I’ve seen in recent memory, and while this isn’t a non-stop gore fest, it has buckets and buckets of the red stuff. Lastly, I’m not sure who to credit with this particular compliment, but I love the character design of the vampire itself. It’s a classic approach that I’m sure horror fans will get a kick out of.
Jakob’s Wife has something to say, and it isn’t exactly subtle. But why should it be? Stevens and team have constructed something that is certain to resonate with horror fans of all walks while keeping things fun-spirited but meaningful. It’s an incredible follow-up to Girl on the Third Floor and proves that Stevens is here to stay. I can’t wait until this one arrives on Shudder and finds its audience and, of course, to see what comes next from Stevens and co.
Jakob’s Wife made its world premiere at the 2021 SXSW Online film festival. RLJE Films plans to release the film in theaters and on Demand on April 16, 2021. Shudder will premiere the film on its platform later in 2021. Shudder has also acquired UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand rights.
Jakob’s Wife is a silly and heartfelt tale full of blood, guts, and unholy matrimony [SXSW Online 2021 Review]