Jakob’s Wife is a powerful film that is equal parts horror flick and pitch-black comedy. It takes shots at the patriarchy and serves up some really memorable carnage in the process. It also brought back memories of being raised in an ultra-religious household. I was brought up in culture where women were expected to succumb to their husband. And this film felt like a small amount of vindication for ladies that have lived their lives without control of their own destiny or had an identity that was solely their own.
Synopsis: Jakob’s Wife follows Anne, the dutiful wife (Barbara Crampton) of a fundamentalist minister (Larry Fessenden). Shortly after we meet Anne, she finds herself forever changed by a chance encounter with a vampiric creature.
Barbara Crampton is initially unrecognizable as Jakob’s wife. At the beginning of the film, she is the dutiful spouse from scripture. A woman who has given up on her own dreams in favor of being a wife. But just beneath the surface is a secret desire to be something more. She’s unsure of herself and lives in the shadow of her outspoken husband. Crampton is able to tell us much of that without even having to vocalize it. She really understands her craft and can convey more with a look than many can with a string of words.
Crampton’s performance really elevates the film. The flick lives or dies by her performance. And thanks to Crampton, the film is living its best life. In less capable hands, her character could have been a huge mess.. Whether she is embracing her inner power for the first time or looking like the cat that ate the canary when her husband walks in on her at mealtime, Crampton nails it.
It’s refreshing to see a female character coming from a repressed background be liberated and in control of her own destiny. It’s a true pleasure to watch Barbara Crampton’s transformation and see her discover the beauty of free will.
Even the title of the film is something of a shot at the patriarchy. It’s called Jakob’s Wife. The picture is about Anne but prior to her transformation, she doesn’t really have an identity of her own. She is merely the woman married to Jakob.
Crampton’s powerhouse performance wouldn’t be possible without a stellar script from Kathy Charles, Mark Steensland, and Travis Stevens. Crampton brings the character to life in a way that only she could. But the script deserves credit for calling out the oppression of women as well as for its colorful characters and compelling story.
Matters of performance and screenwriting aside, I was also taken with Tara Busch’s score. It vacillates between foreboding and dreamlike, punctuating the film’s most intense moments with just the right amount of emphasis and lending a slightly surreal quality to others.
The sound editing and design is equally noteworthy. The silence following an unforeseen complication at the dentist’s office really shook me. It was a simple but supremely effective scene that really got under my skin in the best way possible.
Another high point for me was cowriter/director Travis Stevens use of graphic violence juxtaposed with dark humor. The feeding scenes are absolutely bonkers. It was like watching blood shoot out of a fire hose. There is an almost comical amount carnage. At first, I thought it seemed out of place. But the more I watched, the more I realized how perfectly it works. The excessive gore is met with deadpan reactions from the cast and adds to the darkly comedic nature of the flick.
All in, this is the most fun I’ve had watching a movie in some time. Jakob’s Wife is easily one of my favorite films of 2021 thus far. And I highly recommend checking it out when it bows on demand April 16th.
Featured Image: Ava Jazlyn Gandy/SXSW