Domestic Disputes: Sickle's take on "Jakob's Wife"

Jakob's Wife follows a woman unsatisfied with her drab life and passionless marriage. After being bitten by a vampire, she becomes one of the undead herself. As she struggles with the cravings that come along with the condition, the newfound power also gives her a glimpse into the freedom and excitement she has been desperately seeking.

[This movie was viewed on Shudder at the time of this review.]

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Jakob's Wife Review

Jakob's Wife managed to put a lot more on display than I had initially expected. The characters have more breadth and depth than they have any business having, particularly the attention to detail found within the dynamics of the married couple. The film is still at its heart a self-aware horror comedy romp full of plenty of cheese and camp, but it still manages to ground the principles and social commentary it intends to deliver.

I was surprised to find how much of the film, that is centered around female empowerment, still remained committed to very real elements of marital discord through the heated and relatable discussions of Barbara Crampton and Larry Fessenden. I believe it was this willingness to give moments of somber softness to certain lines better grounded the piece and gave more weight to the overarching moral compass rather than detract from it.

The film still spends plenty of runtime being ridiculous and goofy. Most of the violence features cartoon levels of arterial spray that only serves to make you laugh rather than cringe. The scares are few and far between as the horror feels like more of a vehicle to drive the dark comedy elements and the character studies at work. The vampire look is purposefully familiar, but there is enough care given in the practical effects that it's worth admiring.

The acting is as expected, with a bit of nostalgia fueling the on-par performances. The writing got a little heavy-handed at times, but for the most part I found the use of the vampire mythos to discuss misogyny to be a fresh and creative take. A classic monster that has generally been used as a means to belittle the will power of women is in this case a reference to empower, or at the very least, address the topic of empowerment. And there is plenty of discussion to be had, especially amidst marital arguments.

The film's final act and closing scene further the film's humor while also driving home the overarching point that we have a long way to go in equality, trust, and respect. The chicken and the egg (on a personal level) doesn't matter if we can't acknowledge and treat each other equally. And when we refuse humility and respect, we are left in a constant state of turmoil and festering distaste that can mask itself sometimes but inevitably reveals its ugly self when the going gets tough.

Jakob's Wife tackles some heavy issues that permeates US social habits, but it does it in a digest-able way. Horror is often the perfect vehicle for films like this, as many can sit back and enjoy a simple, low-budget horror-comedy, but then be left with some important thoughts to ruminate on. We can have a good laugh, wince at a few buckets of blood, then rethink our views and values. And to that end, Jakob's Wife is a successful film, if a bit more on the mediocre side than I've conveyed here.

Horror Rating System

Horror Qualifier: 8/10

Horror Quality: 5/10

Film Quality: 5/10

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