SXSW 2021 Review: “Jakob’s Wife” Crampton Shines as a Creature of the Night

User Rating: 9

Greetings from the Underground!

There is a new vamp in town, and her name is Anne, also known as Jakob’s Wife. Anne married the town’s minister, Jakob, and for the last thirty years has played the role of the dutiful wife. Jakob interrupts her constantly, expects her to do her wifely duties, basically takes her for granted. Anne is not happy. She has resigned herself to the fact this is just her life with no way out. That is until she has a chance encounter with “The Master”. After that, she finds new strength both physically and emotionally but there is a price with this strength – a bloody price. As Anne continues to change, she struggles with embracing this new-found power and staying a good wife to Jakob.

Jakob’s Wife is a vampire movie that is more than just blood and a body count. It is an exploration of the dynamics of a marriage. It looks at what happens when there is an imbalance of power and how that can lead to the destruction of a relationship. The story is told from the perspective of Anne, played by the talented Barbara Crampton. Crampton is a tour de force, giving a very emotional performance. You feel her unhappiness. Every time her husband Jakob interrupts her, you feel the sting she feels. You also feel her struggle with being the loyal wife and giving in to temptation. That temptation is not only from reigniting sparks with an old flame but the temptation of giving in to the power that comes with becoming a vampire. There is a wonderful scene after she has her first encounter with “The Master” where she is in her bathroom trying to fathom what had happened to her. She is looking in the mirror and does a silent scream that just struck me right in the heart.

There is a surprising amount of gore in the film, all practical and over the top. Jakob’s Wife definitely shows its influences, from the story of Dracula to the films Fright Night, Lost Boys, and notably 1922’s Nosferatu. The vampires definitely are modeled after the creature in Nosferatu, especially in their facial characteristics and tooth design. There is plenty of practical gore that looks fantastic. It was disturbing at times and at other times humorous. The music was very fitting and the use of shadows and lighting helped create a creepy ambiance. There are a few jump scares but they were all used effectively. 

Like Anne, the tone of Jakob’s Wife changes. It starts off as a sad, unhappy marriage tale and then to a straight horror story only to shift to a dark comedy.  This tonal shift may put some audience members off but I enjoyed it. It was fitting given the perspective the story is being told from. The ending felt a bit rushed and there were a few head-scratching moments in the film but nothing that took me out of the story.  The very final shot of the film was perfect and left me wanting to see more of this couple.

Jakob’s Wife could be lumped together with many of the other indie vampire films out there but what helps set it apart is the theme of marriage equity and female empowerment. If, for nothing else, you should see this movie for the performance of Barbara Crampton. It is one of her best performances and worth the price of a rental. I recommend it to indie horror fans looking for a vampire tale with a different bite. 

Written by
Mark Krawczyk has been reviewing movies since 1993 when he was on the staff for his high school news paper. He is the host for WeLiveFilm's Horror Thursdays and loves all movies, from b-movies to blockbusters. He has a passion for films and loves discussing movies with anyone and everyone.

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