Ahead of the film’s debut at South by Southwest (SXSW), ComingSoon.net got the opportunity to chat with horror icon Barbara Crampton and indie genre producer/writer/director Travis Stevens to discuss their modern gothic chiller Jakob’s Wife!
In looking back at first getting the script for the film, Crampton found she “loved the idea” of the central married couple and how their relationship “is kind of complacent and unsatisfying” but that when she has a chance encounter with someone and begins to go through a change, it shifts “her perspective on her life” and “enables her to sort of recapture her youth and gain a new zest for life that she never knew she had.”
“I just really liked the idea about this woman recapturing her years and what that would do to the relationship and her long marriage,” Crampton explained. “I’m a longtime married person and I feel like, in a way, you know, I started off in the ’80s, being a horror movie actress for a long time. Then roles sort of dried up for me, and then I came back a number of years ago with You’re Next and now I’ve been working in the genre a little bit more as an actress and a producer. I feel like the story really resonated with me on a personal level, so when I first read it a number of years ago, I was really drawn to to the whole story.”
Stevens joined the project some time after Crampton had spent on it and “working with a bunch of different people trying to get it made” and after co-writer Kathy Charles (Castle Freak) penned a draft based on Mark Steensland’s original script. When it finally reached him, he found he “could see the potential for a really, really fun movie” that also “honored Barbara as an actor and gave her a stage to really shine on.”
“Barbara and I worked on the script, to really make sure that there were enough sort of set pieces and moments in there that she could really have a lot of fun with, in terms of a horror movie, but also really had a lot of truth to it from her own life,” Stevens noted. “She could bring her own life into the script so we sort of had a lot of conversations about what her marriage was like, what it was like when she stepped away from her career to raise a family and what it’s like now that she’s not just getting back into acting, but also becoming more involved in her career as a producer. So all those things were important external factors that I was trying to really put into the screenplay. I think, because she had such an emotional connection to this project in a lot of ways it made it so easy because my job was to simply help her get the best version of the movie, versus in previous relationships where she was there to make sure we got what we needed. She was so actively involved in this that it was a real true partnership and collaboration and I think it was really refreshing as a director to talk about ideas and emotions. As a producer, making horror films, you get to do that somewhat, but you’re also really focused on logistics. So working with Barbara this time around compared to We Are Still Here, we spent a lot more time talking about art and paintings and dreams she had when she was younger and all that stuff that you would never have in a normal producer-star relationship.”
“I had been dabbling as a producer for a few years, I worked on Beyond the Gates a few years ago, there was another movie that had to do with werewolves that I had been trying to get off the ground for a number of years, I also was a producer on Castle Freak,” Crampton added. “I really enjoyed producing, I really enjoy helping other young filmmakers work on stories that mean a lot to them. I just enjoy the process of development and I’ve been continuing to do that through the pandemic and I have a few other projects that I’ve been working on. I have a new respect for the whole business because of how long it takes to develop these projects and bring them to the screen and raising the money and finding out where you’re going to shoot and chasing tax credits and casting and all of that. It’s really exciting and thrilling to be able to work on that part of the business.”
Much like his leading lady, Stevens has also recently made a shift in his job titles, going from being a producer for years before finally making the leap behind the camera as a co-writer and director on the acclaimed 2019 horror pic Girl on the Third Floor and found the change to be “really nice” and “artistically rewarding.”
“I think what happened a few years ago is I started getting more confident in my own voice and rather than simply nurturing or developing projects to include the things I’m interested in, I felt confident enough to really just do that entirely and be an author of those ideas myself,” Steven related. “So it’s really nice to me, it’s rewarding and making cool movies is the most important thing. I feel very fortunate that the movies I’ve produced and the ones that I’ve directed have found fans out there, but it’s really nice to wake up each morning and think about, ‘Okay, what what kind of story do I want to tell today?’ and be able to focus on that more than, ‘Okay, I’ve got to get these tax returns out on this LLC from six years ago or this person’s asking for the digital assets from a movie that was released 10 years ago, the nitty gritty of producing can be a bit unglamorous’ [chuckles].”
Not only did the film act as a reunion between Stevens and Crampton, but it also saw the duo partner back up with fellow genre vet Larry Fessenden as the titular preacher, but gave him a different, more restrained role for the 57-year-old actor and his co-star recalls that was “one of the things that we loved about this part for Larry.”
“We often see him as the second banana or the guy that comes in for a few lines and then gets killed or something happens to them,” Crampton explained. “We don’t often see him as the leading man and here he is, so Larry and I have both been in the business for a long time, we have a long history with the horror genre. He’s been a producer, a writer and actor for a very long time and we’ve known each other and worked together, as you said, and when we were thinking about who would be a good person to play Jakob, he was our first thought, Larry. He’s been with this project and with me for three years, he’s known about this project, I said, ‘Look, I want you to play Jakob if I ever get this off the ground, I want you to play this character.’ The script has gone through a few alterations and drafts over the over the last couple of years, but it was always our intention to work with Larry and we just have certain parallels together in the business and also he’s a long married person, like m. So it was nice for us to explore that together and Larry has a rich history with the genre, it was just perfect. I just thought it was perfect for him to play different kinds of role and for me to also play a different kind of role. To give us both the opportunity to do this together, I have so much respect and admiration and love for Larry and I just I I couldn’t even imagine a better movie husband than him.”
Directed by Stevens (Girl on the Third Floor) and co-written with Steensland (The Special) and Charles, the film centers on Anne, who is married to a small-town minister and feels like her life and marriage have been shrinking over the past 30 years. After a chance encounter with “The Master,” she discovers a new sense of power and an appetite to live bigger and bolder than before. As Anne is increasingly torn between her enticing new existence and her life before, the body count grows and Jakob realizes he will have to fight for the wife he took for granted.
Alongside Crampton (We Are Still Here), the cast for the film includes Larry Fessenden (Stake Land), Nyisha Bell (Coming 2 America), Mark Kelly (The Hot Zone), Sarah Lind (Wolfcop), Robert Rusler (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, Vamp), Bonnie Aarons (The Nun, The Conjuring 2) and Phil Brooks (aka CM Punk, Girl on the Third Floor).
The horror-thriller is an AMP production, produced by Bob Portal (It Came From The Desert), Inderpal Singh (The Hoarder), Crampton and Stevens. RLJE Films is a business unit of AMC Networks while Shudder is the studio’s premium streaming service for horror, thriller and supernatural titles.
Jakob’s Wife will make its debut at SXSW this week followed by hitting select theaters and on VOD platforms on April 16.