One of the big features released in the SXSW Film Festival Midnighter selections was Travis Steven’s sophomore feature effort, Jakob’s Wife, starring genre icons Barbara Crampton and Larry Fessenden. It is a character study of a woman finding the most unusual (and bloody) way to break out of a mid-life crisis. The Scariest Things got to break down this remarkable film with Travis.
We had a great time talking with Travis Stevens. We discovered that he has had an unusual path to directing horror movies. Travis has been producing films since 2009, with 27 producing credits to his name. This includes work on some terrific horror titles like Starry Eyes, We Are Still Here (where he worked with Crampton and Fessenden), and XX, plus two fantastic genre documentaries: Jodorowsky’s Dune and 24×36: A Movie About Movie Posters. He took this insider knowledge of the trade, which gave him a very different perspective and entry point when he decided to cut his teeth on directing. His directing career debuted with 2019’s Girl on the Third Floor, starring C.M. Punk. It is a movie about a man trying to renovate an old brothel with a dark past into a home for himself and his pregnant wife.
Jakob’s Wife is his second feature, and it is boosted by the sterling presence of his stars Crampton and Fessenden. He also got the services of some other horror stalwarts like Bonnie Aarons (THE Nun), Sarah Lind (Wolf Cop), and Robert Rusler (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2). So clearly, the man has access to a higher standard of screen talent, as well as bona fides, when entering a film festival like SXSW.
Even in just his second film, you can see the development of Steven’s directing skills. This time, the narrative transitions are smoother. Now the dramatic beats are more on point. The connective tissue and the layers of the characters are subtle but very much present. Stevens injects humor where needed, and the pace of the film never lags. There is sufficient horror action to satisfy the gorehounds. Come for the character study, stay for the dismemberment!
The character study has a deeper resonance in this film than you might recognize. It is a very personal and biographical context to this film. Once you hear Travis describe how he approached the theme of this moment, you will see it with a whole new perspective. It’s AWESOME. It is a movie that evolves as the characters emerge from their doldrums into more… active… lives. The transitions the characters make are echoed with pinches of humor. The gleeful gore and violence in the second half have actual plot symbolism. It is fascinating to hear Stevens dissect this process.
Travis was a great guest. We hope this film will be a solid marker for him. Getting the SXSW nod is a stamp of validation for his decision to jump into the director’s chair. I hope you enjoy this interview with an emerging talent in the horror directing field. You don’t have long to wait to see it. Jakob’s Wife will be released in select theaters, on digital, and VOD on April 16, 2021.