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(2021) (Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden) (Not Rated)

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Horror/Comedy: A preacher's wife finds her life upended when she's bitten by a vampire and grows a taste for human blood and more excitement in her marriage.

Anne (BARBARA CRAMPTON) is an unfulfilled woman. Married to Rev. Jakob Fedder (LARRY FESSENDEN), she exists mostly in the background, where the most exciting thing is having dinner with her brother-in-law, Bob (MARK KELLY), and his wife, Carole (SARAH LIND). But then an old flame of hers -- renowned architect Tom Low (ROBERT RUSLER) -- returns to town to work with Anne on the renovation of an old mill. One thing leads to another and their passion is rekindled but just as quickly interrupted by the arrival of a vampire, The Master (BONNIE AARONS), who earlier turned one of Jakob's parishioners, Amelia (NYISHA BELL), into a fellow bloodsucker.

Tom ends up dead and Anne is bitten on the neck, something she keeps secret from Jakob. But when Sheriff Mike Hess (JAY DeVON JOHNSON) reports that Amelia is missing just like Tom, Anne finds her life turned upside down, what with her appetite for blood growing, just like her desire for more excitement in her marriage. Once Jakob learns what's happened, it's up to them to work through their issues and figure out how to deal with The Master.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10

Horror films come in all shapes, sizes, and story ideas, but a mainstay in the genre is the battle of good vs. evil, specifically as channeled through religion. That, of course, goes back to the origins in the Bible featuring God, Satan and those working for them on both sides.

Perhaps the best and certainly the most memorable of those occurred in "The Exorcist" that culminated with a religious battle royale between a veteran priest (Max von Sydow) and an innocent girl (Linda Blair) infected with a foul-mouthed demon.

"Jakob's Wife" will be long forgotten in the perpetual shadow of William Friedkin's masterpiece, not that it's trying to compete as it's a different sort of cinematic beast. But it similarly features an intriguing contrast between those representing good and evil. One, natch, is a man of the cloth, that being Reverend Jakob Fedder (Larry Fessenden) of the Embrace Eternity Church.

His opponent? Well, that would be none other than his wife, Anne (Barbara Crampton), who from the get-go already isn't pleased with her lot in life, including her marriage to him. Yet, rather than be possessed by a head-spinning demon she ends up with an appetite for blood following her and her jugular's encounter with a vampire (Bonnie Aarons).

What follows is Jakob having to come to grips with what his wife has become -- although she's currently stuck in the transitional stage -- all while contending with the head bloodsucker, a recent vampire convert (Nyisha Bell), the local sheriff (Jay DeVon Johnson) and his brother (Mark Kelly) and sister-in-law (Sarah Lind).

While that might sound like it has as much potential as a comedy as it does a horror flick, that's the intention of writer/director Travis Stevens and co-scribes Kathy Charles and Mark Steensland who've collectively concocted this horror-comedy mix.

Combining horror and comedy can often be a tricky endeavor -- as both can mitigate how effective the offerings are on each side -- and finding the right balance is usually difficult to come by. With that in mind, and although this offering has its moments -- along with a decent array of potential stemming from the premise -- I didn't find the horror scary enough or the comedy that funny.

It just sort of is, meaning I found it mediocre and with some missed opportunities. For instance, to try to stymie his wife's newfound gnawing hunger for blood, the reverend offers her a joint -- that he earlier confiscated from someone -- and both toke up.

That alone is supposed to be funny, but why not have them then have to contend with a vampire attack while high? The possibilities could be near endless in that scenario, but it's never explored.

In the movie "Beetlejuice," Michael Keaton's Betelgeuse states, "I've seen 'The Exorcist' about 167 times...and it keeps getting funnier...every single time I see it." Obviously, what constitutes comedy lies in the mind of the viewer, but along those lines, I doubt "Jakob's Wife" would get funnier -- or scarier -- with subsequent viewings. It rates as a 5 out of 10.

Reviewed April 12, 2021 / Posted April 16, 2021

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