GORE IN THE STORE

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JAKOB'S WIFE ****

Directed by Travis Stevens.
Starring Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden, Bonnie Aarons, Robert Rusler, Nyisha Bell, Sarah Lind.
Horror, USA, 94 mins, cert 15.

 

Released in the UK on DVD & Blu-ray via Acorn Media on 10th January 2022.

 

It is time once again to hail the release of a vampire movie that doesn’t revolve around gorgeous teenagers pining for each other. Okay, we’ve moved on from that awful period of beautiful actors with sparkly skin using eternal life as a metaphor for their love (or something like that) and gone back to gory bloodsuckers ripping their victim’s throats out as the red stuff sprays gloriously over everything in a three-metre radius, and that is absolutely why the cinematic undead cannot die – it’s too much damn fun when vampire movies stick to the basics.

 

But that doesn’t mean you cannot play with the formula a little, and JAKOB’S WIFE is a fun vampire movie that does exactly that by giving us throat rippings, heads being torn off and spooky head vampires that pay homage to what has gone before but there is an angle, and that angle is that the lead characters aren’t lovesick teens but a middle-aged couple in a marriage that isn’t doing either of them any good.

Horror royalty Barbara Crampton (RE-ANIMATOR/YOU’RE NEXT) plays Anne Fedder, a woman in her fifties who is married to Jakob Fedder (Larry Fessenden -THE PIT), a minister in the small town where they live. Anne is unhappy as the marriage has become dull, with Jakob paying more attention to his parishioners than he does to her, but when she receives an invitation from old flame Tom Low (Robert Rusler – VAMP) about a local property business deal she seems to get more excited than a married woman probably should.

 

However, when they meet Anne is overcome with guilt and Tom is overcome by rats, resulting in Anne being bitten by a vampire and returning home feeling a little different than when she left, and for the first time in a long time Jakob begins to notice his wife as she dresses sexily, can pick up heavy furniture with one hand and has an overwhelming thirst for blood. Jakob obviously wants to help return his wife to normal, but does Anne want to go back to being the dutiful minister’s wife?

 

Horror has always been rife with metaphor, whether it’s the miserable vampire teens and their emotional problems, the werewolf representing puberty or the shambling zombie being the replacement consumer in the world of shopping malls, and JAKOB’S WIFE does it with ease, with vampirism being the perfect analogy for themes of mid-life crisis and an unfulfilling marriage, and having a strong cast who can deliver the material with the right amount of weight and gravitas is the movies key strength.

 

What it also does well, though, is throw buckets of gore at the screen which, in this world of psychological terrors and overused jump scares, is superbly rendered considering the low budget and is most welcome. It does take a good 50 minutes before we get our first ‘proper’ bit of effects-driven violence but given that we’ve spent that time with actors of the calibre of Barbara Crampton and Larry Fessenden – who are becoming quite the screen couple after appearing in WE ARE STILL HERE together – as well as the charismatic Robert Rusler and the wonderful Bonnie Aarons (THE NUN) as head vampire The Master (in a fun visual tribute to NOSFERATU, or possibly SALEM’S LOT), it doesn’t feel like a long wait, and when it hits the violence hits hard, making you feel empathy for the characters and also making you chuckle.

 

With witty dialogue, strong performances, OTT gore and even a bit of nudity, JAKOB’S WIFE isn’t really a game-changer when you look back at the history of vampire movies but – and here’s the thing – it doesn’t need to be. Not every vampire movie that gets made has to do something different from what has gone before, it just has to do it well, and JAKOB’S WIFE gets everything pretty much bang on when it comes to story, pacing, script, etc. Barbara Crampton gives what is probably her best performance since FROM BEYOND, clearly loving vamping up and getting her teeth stuck into the role, and her chemistry with Larry Fessenden is endearing, with nobody really being ‘the hero’ and the couple not knowing what to do and facing up to an uncertain future together is charming. It would have been nice to have had a bit more Robert Rusler – which many movies would benefit from – and Bonnie Aarons, whose presence in any horror movie adds considerable weight, but as it is, JAKOB’S WIFE is a hugely enjoyable and entertaining movie that fans of quirkier vampire romps like FRIGHT NIGHT, VAMP or THE LOST BOYS should embrace and find a place for in their blackened hearts.

 

Chris Ward

 

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