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Jakob's Wife (2021): More Than a Preacher's Wife



Ghouls tackle what was a promising film about a pastor's wife discovering her feminine power through a transformation but instead finds a film that fails to deliver any empowerment at all. Instead, this film half-heartedly features a monstrous femme, a problematic couple, and a lot of unnecessary BIPOC deaths.


Sources in this Episode: https://www.history.com/topics/folklore/vampire-history

 

Media from this week's episode:

Jakob’s Wife (2021)

Anne, married to a small-town Minister, feels her life has been shrinking over the past 30 years. Encountering "The Master" brings her a new sense of power and an appetite to live bolder. However, the change comes with a heavy body count.


Directed by: Travis Stevens

 

Jakob's Wife: White Feminism & Missing Girls

by Gabe Castro


RED: Quotes, someone else's words.


I tried to find a film to fit our theme of Monstrous Femme and vampires. It was a struggle. We’ve already covered Queen of the Damned in our Anne Rice episode, though it doesn’t quite fit because it doesn’t feature Aaliyah as our protagonist on a journey to self-discovery, awakening, or anything else empowering. She’s the villain. We already covered BIT which would’ve been really fun to do in this series. And I thought about covering Vamp with Grace Jones but, like with Queen of the Damned she is not the protagonist and she does not speak a single word in the film. So, ultimately, I discovered Jakob’s Wife, the title like Jennifer’s Body drew me in. This is clearly a film about a woman who’s autonomy has been taken from her, her voice, and her power. My hope was that she would get all those things back after her monstrous feminine awakening but am sad to say, she simply does not. Instead, we’re left with a film that starts strong, loses the thread in the middle, and comes out with a muddied, complicated, rather un-feminist ending that left so much to be desired.


Synopsis:

Jakob’s Wife follows Anne Fedder (played by the talented Scream Queen, Barbara Crampton) and her pastor husband, Jakob Fedder. Our first glimpse into Anne’s life is one of solitude. She sits in the pews as her husband delivers his sermons. She stands by his side as he greets their congregation. She is verbally petted as a good wife. She remains silent though we can see her instinct to intervene, to have an opinion, to be anything more than the wallflower she’s been rumbling beneath the surface. Later, when it is revealed a young woman from their congregation has gone missing, her husband and friends assume the girl has simply run away, an impossibility in Anne’s mind. Throughout the scene that urge to speak continues to bubble up and as a viewer, the tension tugs at you each time she is spoken for or talked over. She opens her mouth to defend this young woman and in her hesitancy loses the opportunity, others continuing on as if she weren’t there. When she finally does speak, it's jarring to the guests and her husband. Who knew Anne had opinions?


Anne is working with a group to save and renovate an old, historic mill. Her husband dismisses this as a hobby, surprised she exists outside of him. He shows no interest until he learns that one of the people helping her is an old flame. He is hesitant for her to go, he isn’t so unaware of their loveless/sexless/all-less marriage to know the temptation this would be for Anne but he knows his Anne would never. She’s a good, God-fearing wife.


She meets this old flame and he plays with her. Reminding her of “old times” when she used to be fun and wild, she was going to run away and live in a foreign country. What happened to fun, Anne? You know the one: young and with endless opportunities in front of her? Surely, she didn’t grow up, settle down, and live her life responsibly? Here we learn that Jakob had been there for Anne during trouble with her mother’s health. He was stable, reliable and kind, so of course she settled down. But now, she doesn’t know if it was worth it. As viewers, we want Anne to leave too. Anne and old flame sneak off to the old mill to do some location scouting and chemistry scouting.


What they don’t know is that this mill is the current home to The Master, an ancient vampiric being that has set up shop in their small, decaying town. Anne is turned and thus starts her journey into monstrous femininity. However, this journey, though at times empowering for Anne, fumbles with that independence, autonomy, and self-respect we wanted her to find in the end. My hope in watching was that she would become Anne in the end, shrugging off the identity of Jakob’s wife for good.


A Lack of Autonomy


I was really expecting so much more from a film titled, Jakob’s Wife. In the beginning, I could see where the film was considering to take us and I was excited. Churchwife Anne turns vampire and awakens the strong, independent woman within and takes back her life. That’s what I wanted. There are moments we are teased with this possibility. After being turned, she feels violated, changed, and aware of this different person she is becoming. She wipes away the blood and suffers alone, not wanting to bother or perhaps not feeling comfortable/safe enough to share with Jakob. In the morning, she looks in the mirror and she sees herself. She examines herself, her body, her being. And she begins to appreciate this woman, the power she has within her. These moments of joy, self-discovery, and pleasure are bright parts of the film. Seeing Anne drinking blood from a wine glass, listening to music, and rearranging the furniture in her house is fun. Her private moment with the Master is exciting and you root for her, you yearn for her to actually experience pleasure for once. But so much of that is undermined by the story and plot.


Jakob learns of his wife’s transformation after finding her devouring their neighbor’s corpse. (Which was delightfully gory - she ripped his head off!). There are comedic moments of relief, like here where she says, “It wasn’t me!” after Jakob finds her lapping up his blood to which he replies, “Of course it was you!”


The problem with Anne’s awakening is Jakob. When she becomes more confident in herself, the woman who once found the red lipstick too sexy to wear to a dinner, is now wearing low cut dresses, red lipstick, and styling her hair in a new way. Jakob picks up on it but he hates it. She used to be predictable, she used to be how he made her. The Master tempts Anne throughout the film, reminding her of her innate power, her passion, her right to be pleased and desired. But time and time again, she chooses Jakob. This man, who will never trust or appreciate her fire and strength. He does not like her. And he still feels he’s the protagonist. When they decide to go kill the Master, he forbids Anne to go. He continues to rob her of her autonomy, over and over again in the film. All the way up to the end, where he kills the Master for her. The Master explains to Anne that he only chooses specifically people to turn, that they aren’t subservient to him and that he wants to empower them. He tells her that Jakob will never accept her (true) and that she is better than him (also true). But before she can make the decision to accept this power or kill the Master herself, Jakob yet again steals her ability to choose and kills the Master himself.


The disappointment I felt every time she chose Jakob. The lackluster and awkward sex feeling like complacency from Jakob and the consistent settling of Anne on Jakob made the film a hard watch. Though I enjoyed the gore and absurd horror of the practical effects, I was so outraged by the lack of empowerment and growth for Anne.


White Woman Victimhood:


Other than the failure to live up to the promise of its name, the plot that seemed so obvious yet never revealed itself, there was actually an entirely different issue I had with this film. If we are to see Jakob’s Wife as a tale of feminism, then it is very specifically, white woman feminism.


Each and every peripheral POC character in this film is done wrong. Amelia, the young church girl who takes care of her mother is the first victim in the film. This was already an issue that almost had us turning off the film. In 2021, there’s no excuse to make a black character the first victim. Besides that, I hated how dismissive Jakob was to Amelia right from the beginning, he clearly has no care for her as a human but only sees her as another face amongst the congregation. When she is missing, they assume she’s run away. I can’t help but believe that were Amelia white, the town would be scouring the world to find her.


In Season three of You, there’s an episode titled, Missing White Woman Syndrome where it’s revealed to Joe that by killing and disappearing a white woman in a suburban neighborhood, he messed up because the world would bend over backward to find her. It’s made more impactful in the show in that the person who explains this to him is Tati Gabrielle, a young Black woman. In You, this is a discussion about the misrepresentation and the disproportionately significant attention white women and girls receive in the news when they are missing versus the incredibly underreported and undermined missing person cases for BIPOC women and girls. There are entire documentaries, podcasts, and organizations dedicated to shining light on this issue. I