HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: JAKOB’S WIFE (2021)

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JAKOB’S WIFE (2021)

Story finds Anne Fedder (Barbara Crampton, who also co-produced) unhappy in her marriage to overbearing Minister Jakob Fedder (Larry Fessenden). When on an ill-fated rendezvous with an old flame (Robert Rusler), Anne is bitten by a female vampire (Bonnie Aarons). Now Anne suddenly finds the strength to stand up to her husband and be her own person, but only the bad thing is, she also develops a strong appetite for blood.

Tale of female empowerment and vampirism is directed by Travis Stevens (The Girl on the Third Floor) from a script by he, Kathy Charles and Mark Steensland. It’s well intended and there are plenty of effective scenes, but the first third seems a bit bland and slow moving until the spooky stuff really begins. Once things get going, there is plenty of bloodshed and it is when dealing with it’s vampire elements that Travis’ flick really comes to life…pun intended. It’s fun to watch Crampton “vamp’ it up as the bitten Anne and also see Fessenden’s minister going all Van Helsing in order to save his wife. It has it’s slow spots, as Travis seems to be far better at the horror elements than the husband/wife drama between Anne and Jakob. It is fun, though, to see the tables turn, as Anne starts to wear the pants in the relationship and Jakob is revealed to be a bit of a coward. The vampire scenes are chilling and there is a subtle humor laced into the proceedings, so we can have a little fun between the darker and bloodier moments. Travis also avoids the clichés in this type of flick whenever possible and while it is not completely unconventional, the familiar tropes are used very well and it comes to a fitting conclusion. The film also has an effective visual style, as photographed by David Matthews and a fun vampire appropriate score by Tara Busch.

The cast are good, especially an excellent Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, Chopping Mall) as the oppressed wife experiencing a supernaturally charged awakening. It’s one of her best roles in a long time. Larry Fessenden is also well cast as her boorish minister husband who realizes there are vampires afoot…and his wife is one of them. It’s fun to see Robert Rusler (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, Vamp) back in a horror, though his appearance is basically an extended cameo. The film also stars Nyisha Bell as a parishioner turned bloodsucker, Jay DeVon Johnson as Sheriff Mike Hess, along with a cameo by former WWE Superstar CM Punk (The Girl on the Third Floor) as a deputy and featuring Bonnie Aarons (The Nun), who is very effective as the master vampiress.

Overall, Jakob’s Wife starts off a little slowly, but finds it’s footing and presents a spooky and entertaining story of a woman rediscovering and asserting herself, with the help of a little vampirism. Some of the dramatic scenes can come across as a little flat, but director Travis Stevens handles the spooky and bloody stuff a lot more effectively to make up for it. The filmmaker has a good cast, especially with a strong performance by lead Crampton. Not a completely fresh take on the traditional vampire tale, but one that has some novel moments, does it’s own thing at times and mixes in some contemporary themes of female empowerment deftly into it’s story. Flick from RLJE Films and Shudder is now available to stream on Amazon Prime and other streaming outlets.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) fangs.

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BARE BONES: CASTLE FREAK (2020)

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CASTLE FREAK (2020)

Flick is a remake of Stuart Gordon and Full Moon’s 1995 cult classic of the same name. Updated story has Rebecca (Clair Catherine), who was recently blinded in an accident, inheriting her estranged mother’s (Kika Magalhães) castle in Albania. She travels there with her boyfriend John (Jake Horowitz), who seems to see his girlfriend’s new inheritance as his own personal gain. They not only find that her family was involved with some bizarre cult activity, but that there may be someone…or something…still living in the castle walls. So, of course, they invite their friends over to party.

Remake tries to do something a little different with Stuart Gordon and Dennis Paoli’s original story by giving the freak a more Lovecraftian origin and make it a female this time. There is some very well rendered gore and some viciously violent scenes, but a lot of this effort is undone by Tate Steinsiek’s very by-the-numbers approach. Kathy Charles’ script tries to maintain enough of the original’s storyline to pay it homage and yet be more it’s own thing by adding the cult past, Lovecraft-like elements and the creature’s link to both an ancient evil and Rebecca. For the most part she is successful, but it’s Steinsiek’s pedestrian directing that makes this flick a tedious watch despite some delightfully gory, goofy and gross moments. The castle and Albanian settings are atmospheric, though, to be honest, the young cast inhabiting them are rather bland. Add to that the flick is ten to fifteen minutes too long and could have been a tight 90 minutes without loosing anything important, and you have a close but no cigar attempt at updating, and improving upon, a cult classic. Though, IMO, the original is more unpleasant than anything else. At least this version has a cool score by the legendary Fabio Frizzi! Streaming on Shudder if you are interested and, if so, watch through the credits as apparently, they are considering tampering with another Gordon classic.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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