I’ve been a fan of actress Barbara Crampton ever since as a teenage boy I saw the severed head of David Gale’s Dr. Carl Hill almost perform cunnilingus on Crampton’s Megan Halsey in director Stuart Gordon’s gory 1985 cult classic “Re-Animator.”
Between ’85 and now Crampton has appeared on numerous soap operas (“Guiding Light,” “The Bold and the Beautiful” and “The Young and the Restless”) as well as in a handful of other horror highlights (“Chopping Mall,” Gordon’s “From Beyond” and “Castle Freak,” “You’re Next,” “The Lords of Salem” and “We Are Still Here”). Crampton was lovely in the ’80s and she’s lovely still. Her latest effort is “Jakob’s Wife” (now available on VOD and in theaters – including locations in Indiana such as Brownsburg, Lebanon, Mooresville and Lafayette), a vampire flick that takes a bite out of the institution of marriage.
Crampton stars as Anne Fedder, wife of Pastor Jakob Fedder (horror stalwart Larry Fessenden). Anne doesn’t live for herself so much as she does for her husband. If he says jump, she asks how high. Living in subservience has grown stale for Anne. She is enlivened when presented with a business opportunity to remodel the town’s old mill by her high school sweetheart Tom Low (Robert Rusler of “Weird Science” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge”).
When perusing the property, Anne gives into temptation and kisses Tom. Given a sudden case of conscience, Anne ceases kissing Tom before it can escalate into something more. Almost instantly after their make out session is halted, Tom is attacked and killed by a pack of vampiric rats (strangely subbing in for bats here, which puts a new spin on the subgenre). Anne herself is bitten by The Master (Bonnie Aarons, also the titular Nun of “The Nun”) and thus begins her transformation.
Jakob instantly notices and is concerned by the changes in Anne. She promptly gets a new haircut and wardrobe. Anne isn’t as concerned with making sure breakfast is on the table prior to Jakob going to work opting instead to exercise. Speaking of eating, Anne visits the grocery store and purchases as much blood as she can from the butcher. Jakob vents to his brother Bob (Mark Kelly) and sister-in-law Carol (Sarah Lind of “WolfCop”).
“Jakob’s Wife” is a fun and funny horror flick that has astute things to say about marriage. I seriously disliked producer-turned-director Travis Stevens’ feature debut “Girl on the Third Floor.” (If I never see semen pouring out of an electric socket ever again it won’t be soon enough.) “Jakob’s Wife” is a HUGE improvement. Stevens and his co-writers Kathy Charles (she scribed the recent “Castle Freak” remake) and Mark Steensland deserve props for penning a part that the 62-year-old Crampton (who also served as a producer) could really sink her fangs into. (It also doesn’t hurt that Crampton has a gamely funny Fessenden to play off of.) I suspect Stevens’ films are only as good as his leads are – and Crampton is a much better performer than professional wrestler-turned-thespian C.M. Punk – he appears in a much smaller role here as Deputy Colton. I also find it curious that both of Stevens’ features focus prominently on infidelity. Is this dude a cheater or has he been cheated on?
Though it’s somewhat slow to start, “Jakob’s Wife” is a fun throwback to the ‘80s heyday of practical creature features. Makeup artists Mary Czech, Marcus Koch and Jessie Seitz deserve serious kudos for their slimy, squishy work. The picture also gives curious viewers an answer to the timeless question, “What happens when vampires have their teeth whitened?”