Very spoilery, so read on to find out about the film’s meaning, the ending, what I like to think happens next, and also what the Deirdre / Mike / Ken love triangle from Coronation Street has to do with all this. (You can read my 3.5/5 review here.)
“Thirty years of been dutiful, obedient, supportive but never satisfying your own desires. Were you ever really you or were you just Jakob’s wife?” says the Master to Anne at the denouement of the film.
The last few minutes of Travis Stevens’ blood-drenched vampire horror sum up the best of the movie itself: funny, gory, and romantic, while suggesting stormy waters ahead (if Jakob doesn’t do what he’s told, anyway).
Jakob’s Wife could be a parable for anyone in an unhappy, unfulfilling relationship, whether that is romantic, family or friends; though it seems particularly aimed at women, who can end up as caregivers and supporters with no way of escape. Twentysomething Amelia from Rev Fedder’s congregation looks after her mother, an alcoholic, when she should be out having fun or building her career.
It’s once bitten, no longer shy for Amelia after she is bitten though, and watching her gleefully mocking Jakob in the mill is a rather “you go, undead girl!” moment. She may now be a being of pure evil but she’s also finally enjoying her freedom. Despite Jakob’s new knowledge of what has happened to his wife, he is so taken in by Amelia’s manipulations and claims to humanity it’s left to Anne to kill her so they can escape. It takes one to know one, I suppose.
Anne wants Jakob to fight for her and for their relationship but he finds it hard to stop talking over her and start listening. When the Master comes into their house later that night, Anne finds Jakob kneeling on the floor in a trance, holding a knife to his own throat. The Master tells Anne he doesn’t want to own her, as this is about her and what she wants: “die or thrive, the choice is yours.” She tells him she loves Jakob, before launching herself at her husband, teeth bared. She doesn’t bite him though; instead they have passionate sex on the floor, a battle epitomising their relationship as each fights to be on top.
The next day they get stoned and Jakob apologises for talking over her during their marriage. They then steal the body of Amelia’s dead mother to bleed it dry, a process interrupted by Jakob’s brother Mark and sister-in-law Carol.
Mark holds Anne captive until the police and Jakob arrive, but Carol is snatched by the Master and is found in the garden, the Master speaking through a hideous gash in her throat.
That final front lawn showdown is part Agatha Christie, part Scooby Doo. Practically every character, including some already dead, are watching which way Anne will go. Stay as her newly spicy self, or go full bloodsucker?
The Master is there to entice her, but is also the first to ask Anne directly what she wants — and sums up exactly what her boring marriage has been like for her.
Jakob doesn’t wait for Anne to decide though, and instead drives a wooden stake through the Master’s heart, leaving Anne furious that he took the decision from her.
The next morning, Anne and Jakob are sitting on their sofa, discussing what to do next. Anne says they should just sell up and leave, but makes it clear she won’t be looking for a cure — she likes her newly-liberated self.
Both are tense and Jakob is on edge, holding fast to a wooden stake, just in case. They lean in — to kiss? for Anne to bite him? — and she hisses.
To misquote Gwyneth Paltrow and the bloke from Coldplay I think this is less a murder than a conscious recoupling, and I truly think they’ll be together for all eternity. My guess is the Master will be back though. If this was Coronation Street, Anne and Jakob would be (unfulfilled) Deirdre and (boring) Ken Barlow, and the Master would be (flash) Mike Baldwin. (Americans, you can find out more about this incredibly famous British TV love triangle here.)
If a movie’s meaning is in the eye of the beholder, I’ll take Jakob’s Wife as a menopause allegory and the Master as HRT (when I say I felt seen by the film, I actually have a picture of myself in a red dress, red lipstick and with an ironed blonde bob on a night out after I went on it) though I’m willing to grudgingly accept that’s a little niche. More generally the Master is, for Anne, the midlife catalyst — sometimes an affair that can’t go anywhere — that reminds a middle-aged woman who she once was and/or could be now.
As in real life, the Master is not a realistic prospect — who really wants to go off with a grey, scaly, bald demon who won’t ever die and leave you in peace when you can make a few adjustments to your relationship with the cuddly man you love and enjoy the best of both worlds? But the Master is the disruption, the grain of sand in the oyster, who makes Anne and Jakob look at their lives and each other in a new way before they rebuild their marriage into something better and more valuable.
The Master has woken up not just Anne’s own desires, but her determination that Jakob fight for her; and provides Jakob with the perfect opponent for a man of the church.
RLJE Films and Shudder release the horror film JAKOB’S WIFE in the US in cinemas, on demand and on digital on 16 April 2021.