Having made her cinematic resurgence with the 2013 sleeper hit You’re Next, horror icon (don’t call her a scream queen) Barbara Crampton has made a number of strong appearances in genre films in the years since, but hasn’t quite had the juicy role to fully realize her talents. Director Travis Stevens enthralling genre mash-up Jakob’s Wife gives Crampton a new role to be remembered by.
Anne (Crampton) is the meek and reserved wife of Jakob (Larry Fessenden), a small-town minister. Tired of being talked over and ignored by her husband, Anne’s monotonous lifestyle is upended when she is bitten by a vampire and begins to develop that good ol’ thirst for blood.
Stevens, alongside co-writers Mark Steensland and Kathy Charles find a striking tonal balance that blurs the line between horror and comedy, weaving its way in and out of genres like a gentle breeze.
Jakob’s Wife doubles as an insightful look into the mechanics of a stalled marriage with one toe dipped directly into absurdist body horror ala Vampire’s Kiss mixed with the character pathos of Sebastian Lelio’s Gloria Bell.
Barbara Crampton delivers perhaps the richest performance of her career. Crampton perfects the psychical transformation from quiet church mouse to blood-thirsty vampire while grounding the character with nuance and vulnerability. An outstanding sequence that finds Crampton drinking blood out of a wine glass while dancing around the house to Concrete Blonde’s “Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)” is a true cinematic highlight.
Sharing the screen for the first time since 2015’s We Are Still Here, Larry Fessenden once again makes a terrific foil for Crampton. The role of Jakob holds more layers as the film goes on, making for some dynamic plot developments in the second half. Crampton and Fessenden find the truth in the material, making the tonal shifts feel effortless as a result. Jakob’s Wife has more insight on domestic dependency than you would expect from a film that has the amount of gore found in an early Peter Jackson film.
The gore effects in Jakob’s Wife are particularly gnarly, but campy enough to help mold the films sadistic charm. These are the kinds of vampires that tear bodies to pieces and spill gallons of blood.
Jakob’s Wife is an equally thrilling and original piece of genre cinema that defies categorization. Travis Stevens finds the near-perfect blend of wit, blood-soaked camp and expertly rendered characters to rejuvenate genre fans and film-lovers alike.