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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Barbara Crampton’s Horror Legacy From ‘Re-Animator’ to ‘Jakob’s Wife’

Barbara Crampton needs no introduction to horror fans. The horror stalwart has amassed an impressive list of genre credits in an equally remarkable career, with no signs of slowing down any time soon. Her prolific acting work ranges from beloved horror classics to modern gems, and that doesn’t even cover her Rondo-nominated column for Fangoria magazine or her expansion into producing. Crampton’s latest, Jakob’s Wife is a passion project that she produced and stars in as the eponymous character.

Directed by Girl on the Third Floor’s Travis StevensJakob’s Wife also stars Larry Fessenden as Pastor Jakob Fedder, Bonnie AaronsRobert RuslerNyesha Bell, and C.M. Punk. The horror-comedy follows Anne Fedder (Crampton), a doting, supportive wife that does everything her minister husband expects of her. Decades of routine have dampened both Anne’s marriage and her passion for life. That changes when an old flame comes back in town, leading to an encounter with “The Master” that instills a newfound hunger in Anne for life as well as blood. That empowerment comes with a body count.

Jakob’s Wife releases in theaters and on VOD platforms April 16, 2021, and it will arrive on Shudder later this year. In anticipation, we celebrate Crampton’s horror legacy through some of her most well-regarded roles.

Re-Animator – Megan Halsey

Crampton’s first major horror role also marks the first of many collaborations with horror master Stuart Gordon. She played Megan Halsey, daughter of the Miskatonic University dean and significant love interest to protagonist Dan (Bruce Abbott). Everyday life gets upended thanks to the arrival of Dan’s new roommate, Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs), who drags everyone into his experiments that revive the dead. Megan is strong-willed and level-headed. She’s the first to voice suspicions over West. Poor Megan also fairs the worst by West’s presence, losing her father and falling prey to the lecherous Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale). Crampton instantly engenders sympathy for her character and demonstrates fearlessness in her approach to the role.

Chopping Mall – Suzie Lynn

Suzie Lynn is the co-worker and close friend to final girl Alison Parks (Kelli Maroney). The pair decide to stay overnight in a mall furniture store with a group of friends, only to run afoul of some security bots on the fritz. Crampton imbues Suzie with a party-going spirit befitting of the teen character. Suzie just wants to have fun, but when it’s clear that these killer bots aren’t letting anyone off the hook, Suzie doesn’t cope very well. Just like your average teen. It’s clear Crampton is having a ball in this role along with her castmates.

From Beyond – Dr. Katherine McMichaels

Crampton reunites with Stuart and Combs for another gooey take on a Lovecraft tale. This time she plays the obsessed doctor willing to risk all for science’s sake. Dr. Katherine takes Dr. Crawford (Combs) in custody back to the home that saw the murder of Dr. Pretorius (Ted Sorel) and has him assist in rebuilding the machine that allows them to see an alternate dimension. The more the gateway opens, the more dangerous it gets as creatures get released into their reality. Crampton once again delivers a spirited performance that allows her to explore the femme fatale, damsel, and final girl archetypes all rolled into one. Dr. Katherine is an assertive type that suffers no fools. She’s also prone to significant mistakes that get people killed.

Castle Freak – Susan Reilly

Reuniting Gordon, Combs, Lovecraft, and Crampton once more, Castle Freak offers a more intimate domestic nightmare. After inheriting a castle, John Reilly (Combs) moves his wife and blind daughter (Jessica Dollarhide) overseas to visit. The plan is to stay until they can sell it, but their stay turns into a fight for their lives thanks to a mysterious castle dweller. Crampton goes full protective mama bear as Susan. Susan holds apparent resentment toward her husband for his past alcoholism that led to their son’s death and cost their daughter her sight. The actress ensures that while her character remains icy toward John throughout, you still empathize.

You’re Next – Aubrey Davison

After a lengthy hiatus from acting, Crampton’s appearance in You’re Next marked the beginning of a significant Crampton renaissance. She’d stepped away from acting and raised her children, but director Adam Wingard lured her back for his darkly comedic home invasion movie. In it, Crampton plays the Davison matriarch. A warm yet fragile mother to four grown children that bicker and fight at every turn. Aubrey descends into near-catatonic hysterics upon losing one of her children and falls prey to the masked assailants soon after. Her brief, notable performance left a lingering impression.

We Are Still Here – Anne Sacchetti

Best Netflix Horror

Ted Geoghegan’s ’70s set haunted house chiller stars Crampton as a mother still deep in the grip of grief. After losing their son in a car accident, Paul Sacchetti (Andrew Sensenig) and his wife Anne moved to a rural New England home for a fresh start. Paul hopes it will alleviate Anne’s deep depression. Instead, Anna starts to insist their son’s spirit inhabits their home. She even reaches out to friends, one of which is played by Larry Fessenden, to contact his ghost. Of course, this house hosts multiple spirits, and they’re hungry for blood. Anne’s enduring love propels the narrative forward, and Crampton capably provides the emotional center.

Beyond the Gates – Evelyn


Crampton channels the incredible intensity of Barbara Steele as the host of the mysterious VCR board game “Beyond the Gates.” As Evelyn commands and guides the lead characters through a deadly game that bleeds over into reality, there’s an almost inhuman quality to her mannerisms. Evelyn’s pure authority, casting an unblinking gaze upon the players. Evelyn presents an alluring host to the board game on a surface level, but Crampton infuses a subtle menace simmering just beneath the surface. Something is very off about Evelyn, and the entire game, for that matter.

Jakob’s Wife – Anne Fedder

Crampton commands the entire movie with her turn as Anne. She begins as a bored housewife but slowly transforms thanks to a vampire affliction. Anne’s exploration of vampirism and all of its side effects gives fantastic comedic material for Crampton to chew, and it’s clear she’s having a blast doing it. It’s a meaty, gender-swapped role that any actor would covet, offering drama, comedy, and a whole lot of carnage. Crampton sinks her teeth in fully, pun intended. Jakob’s Wife is a passion project for Crampton, who saw this project to completion from the ground up as a producer. Anne makes for an exciting benchmark in Crampton’s steady path as a trailblazer in horror.

See Crampton bite into Jakob’s Wife on April 16, in theaters and VOD.


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