Review by Camden Ferrell
Jakob’s Wife had its premiere at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival. This horror film is the sophomore feature from writer/director Travis Stevens. Even though it’s a fun and campy film, the movie is dragged down by its uneven pace and unconventional execution.
Anne is a woman who is married to Jakob, a local preacher. Throughout her marriage, she has felt herself being minimized and overlooked. After a chance encounter with a mysterious entity, she develops a violent and troubling appetite. Now, Jakob must fight for his marriage and his wife. It’s an interesting premise that is ripe for campy horror fun.
The script by Mark Steensland, Kathy Charles, and Stevens, is rather uneven throughout. The dialogue can be bland and derivative at times. However, the movie doesn’t indulge too heavily in exposition, and the script does a decent job of trusting its audience especially with the more supernatural elements of the film.
The acting in the film is enjoyable even if it can seem silly at times. The film is led by Barbara Crampton, who plays Anne, and Larry Fessenden, who plays Jakob. Crampton, a horror veteran, feels right at home in this movie. She does a decent job at handling the non-horror elements, but she excels in all of her horror scenes. Fessenden does a great job at playing off of Crampton, but on his own, he lacks the same infectious energy as Crampton.
One of the surprising features of the film is how it tackles marriage dynamics. It tackles some pretty complex ideas of the troubles that stem from marriage and the personal inadequacies one might feel as a result. Unfortunately, once the movie makes strides in exploring this theme, it stops short of anything revelatory.
The film will most likely please genre enthusiasts due to its campy nature. There are plenty of bloody and gory moments throughout that lack a certain earnestness that one might expect from other horror films. This makes it somewhat unconventional, and it may alienate novices to the genre. Stevens’ execution of his scenes is works sporadically, but it lacks conviction at times throughout.
The pacing is also all over the place in the movie. The movie steadily builds up in the first half only for the second half to be tonally inconsistent and off-putting as a result. It’s not bad by any means, but it also doesn’t reach its full potential due to the shortcomings of various elements in the film.
Jakob’s Wife is an enjoyable horror film at times that shows promise for Stevens as a horror director, but it doesn’t do much to subvert expectations. It will most likely appeal to horror fans while the average viewer may have a hard time getting behind it.
Jakob’s Wife is in select theaters and on VOD April 16.