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New Releases: Jakob's Wife (2021) - Reviewed

Posted By themoviesleuth 1159 days ago on Entertainment -  The complexities of marriage are often explored in cinema.  Beyond the traditional struggles that relationships endear, a subgenre involves the loss of identity and freedom that is often experienced in certain relationships.  As we age, notions of the past become ghosts, haunting the subconscious with what could have been.  It is only fitting that Travis Steven's neo-vampire story stars a pair of horror icons whose filmographies are part of the foundation of modern independent American horror films.  Featuring a darkly humorous script, an unforgettable duo of lead performances, and a wealth of entrancing visuals, Jakob's Wife is the first legitimate horror experience of the year.  Anne, the subdued wife of a milquetoast preacher, is bitten by a vampire during a rendezvous with an old flame. While her husband struggles to adapt to a violent new normal, Anne discovers an aspect of herself that has been resurrected by the kiss of The Master.  Stevens cowrote the script with Kathy Charles and Mark Steensland.  One of the most brilliant aspects of the story is a fusing of genres.  There is the (a bit too) on the nose marital disintegration story, but alongside it there is a vampiric undercurrent and a suburbia in distress vibe.  Horror icon Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, Body Double) stars as Anne in what is the best performance of her storied career.  Opposite her is legendary director Larry Fessenden, whose Jakob is equally as fascinating.  The humor high notes immediately remind of Eating Raoul and The Santa Clarita Diet, but there is an erotic undercurrent of danger that anchors the proceedings and this is where both Crampton and Fessenden truly shine. It is remarkable how neither actor slips entirely into an extreme.  There is humor, violence, and steamy sex interspersed between the less subtle themes of marital distress and female empowerment, and they are bolstered as a result. Both Anne and Jakob are on journeys of not only self-discovery, but of redefinition both with respect to their roles and their relationship.  Both sojourns are the bulk of the narrative, encased in the vampiric mythology that entwines the principals, manifested in Bonnie Aarons Nosferatu-like "The Master".  Adorned is Mary Czech’s astounding makeup effects, The Master is symbolic of the weight of regret and the freedom of letting go, made real with Aarons' terrifying presence.  Another intriguing aspect is Stevens' approach to violence.  Meteoric amounts of blood flood the optics, yet another reminder of the gravity of Anne's situation, and yet there is always an element of humor involved, be it Jakob's amateur Van Helsing antics or Anne's disdain for his incompetence.  One of the best sequences involves a post conflict coupling, mainly because it is refreshing to see a camera not shy away from older subjects.  These are two accomplished talents who are not only attractive, but they are also proud of who they are, and Jakob's Wife is (at its core) is a story about not being ashamed of oneself.  Perhaps the most humorous angle is in the way the film utterly surrenders to that concept, specifically when viewed through a matrimonial lens.  Promises are always made, and yet bad habits are extremely difficult to break, be it making your partner feel inadequate or consuming the blood of your neighbor.  David Matthews’ cinematography captures the various worlds on display with a mix of potent closeups and restrained angles, separating the vampiric from the living with muted colors and detailed shots of Calen Edwards’ set dressing.  The suburban aspect, including neighbors, family, and police is the final ingredient, brought to life by an amazing ensemble.  Its importance is because it adheres to the overall framework of suburban living: When a couple experiences trauma it tends to spill over and sides are usually taken.  The fun is in how Anne and Jakob evolve to react to these changes, with a mix of violent and laugh out loud results.  Available tomorrow via digital on-demand, Jakob's Wife is a remarkable foray into the perils of marriage and the many hazards lurking in the average American cul de sac.  Combining genre tropes and drama cliches before running them through a vampire's razor-sharp smile to create a genuine love story about two people who lost each other desperately trying to right the ship.  This is a labor of love that is buoyed by two powerful performances who elevate what could have been a forgettable thriller to the heights of cult cinema.  --Kyle Jonathan 

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