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 was a wonderful character study of a middle-aged woman finding the most unusual (and bloody) way to break out of a mid-life crisis. The Scariest Things got a chance to break down this remarkable film with Travis.
We had a great time talking with Travis, as he has something of an unusual path to directing horror movies. He has been producing films since 2009, with 27 producing credits to his name including 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 insiders knowledge of the trade which gave him a very different perspective and entry point when he decided to cut his teeth on directing, starting with 2019’s Girl on the Third Floor starring C.M. Punk, about a man trying to renovate an old brothel with a dark past into a home for himself and his expectant wife.
Jakob’s Wife is his second feature, and not only is it boosted by the sterling presence of his stars Crampton and Fessenden, but 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 the bona fides when entering a film festival like SXSW.
Even in just his second film, you can see the development of Steven’s directing skill. The narrative transitions are smoother. The dramatic beats are more on point. The connective tissue and the layers of the characters are subtle but very much present. Humor is injected where needed, and the pace of the film never lags, offering up sufficient horror action to satisfy the gorehounds. Come for the character study, stay for the dismemberment!
The character study actually has 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 theming of this moment, you will see it with a whole new perspective, and it’s AWESOME. It is also a movie that evolves, as the characters emerge from their doldrums and into a more, shall we say… active… life change. The transitions the characters make are echoed with pinches of humor and the gleeful gore and violence that makes up the second half have actual plot symbolism, and it is fascinating to hear Stevens dissect this process.
Travis was a great guest, and we hope and believe that this film will be a solid marker for him and 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.