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SXSW 2021 REVIEW: A Tumultuous Marriage and Vampires Converge in ‘Jakob’s Wife’ From Travis Stevens

Relationships are difficult. Routines can drive us into a spiraling depression or destructive state. And vampires suck, literally. In filmmaker Travis Stevens second film, Jakob’s Wife, we get all of the above in a messy but mostly good campy time.

Anne (Barbara Crampton) stares blankly as she stands sternly next to her commanding husband Jakob’s (Larry Fessenden) side. His weekly sermon has just ended and as he engages with every member of his parish gleefully, he remains blind to his wife who stands next to him bored. Things aren’t right in their relationship and more worrisome for the town are a horde of rats that scurry about outside.

The film starts off dreadfully serious and surprising for the set-up, cast of characters and promise of Vampire goodness. We explore Anne’s wandering eye as she meets up with an old crush at an abandoned mill to talk real estate. Things quickly get hot and heavy as Tom makes a move which she embraces. This is quickly interrupted by noise coming from within coffin shaped boxes. Her nosey old flame has to look inside which he is quickly greeted with a swarm of rats who jump and devour him quickly. She watches in horror until a large bat like creature comes out from the darkness behind her.

Things are getting worse in the town as a member of Jakob’s church has gone missing. He takes it upon himself to go exploring and quickly finds her albeit changed. She’s become the undead. They scuffle but he’s able to weasel his way out of the situation and heads back to his home.
Back at his home, he finds his wife, changed but not as aggressive as the previous vampire run in. She’s become more alive and vibrant. She doesn’t want to make him dinner.

She wants to go out. She’s getting herself back on track. We even get a very silly moment where she dances around her living room moving furniture with her super strength.

She’s under the spell of a new Master which Jakob soon discovers by the dead bodies that are piling up at the feet of his wife. He’s given only one choice which his help his wife break free from this new Master and find her way back to him.

The film isn’t shy about what it’s saying about how a husband can command a wife but tonally it’s all over the place. Thankfully once the vampire is introduced formally, we get plenty of bloodletting which makes the messy themes go down a bit easier.
I think there could have been a great film here had Stevens allowed for more fun from the first frame and not waited until blood was spilt. The last 10 minutes of the film really hooks you and with the blatant rip off of Salem’s Lot as the Master we see that all along we should’ve been having more fun. The final moment returns to the overly serious tone of the beginning as it tries to put one last (not subtle) message about marriage on screen.