Director – Adrian Lyne
Cast – Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Pena, Danny Aiello, Matt Craven, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Jason Alexander, Patricia Kalember, Eriq La Salle, Ving Rhames, Brian Tarantina, Anthony Alessandro, Brent Hinkley, Macaulay Culkin
Release Year – 1990
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I had been meaning to get to this film for quite a while due to how original and horrific this film is. This is not the typical “in your face” horrific we get in most horror films, but a psychological experience in which the horrific content slowly creeps up on you. Personally, I love that.
“Jacob’s Ladder” stars Tim Robbins as Jacob Singer, a former and very troubled Vietnam veteran still suffering the effects of a near-fateful skirmish several years prior. Jacob has constant flashbacks of the near-fateful event in Vietnam, and his flashbacks worsen as he begins to hallucinate about his first marriage, a marriage that left him a young son who unfortunately passed away in an accident, an accident Jacob feels responsible for. As his hallucinations become worse Jacob begins a dark journey in which he cannot decipher what is real and what is delusion, and comes across a possible solution that involves a deep Army conspiracy from his Vietnam days.
In all honesty, I want to refer to this film as America’s “Cemetery Man”. While this flick does not focus as much on love and romance as “Cemetery Man” did, the constant battle between reality and delusion was very remnant of Michele Saovi’s excellent Italian horror film. Tim Robbins does a fine job as Jacob Singer, and his horror is felt by the viewer thanks to Adrian Lyne’s astounding direction. I found this pretty impressive given Adrian Lyne is by no means a horror director and at the time his biggest film was “Fatal Attraction”. Adrian’s demons in this film are awe-inspiring and was copied heavily by William Malone in his remake of “The House on Haunted Hill”, which used the same “shaky head” demons. The “hell” scene in this film has to be one of horror’s finest scenes EVER as it gives us a non-cliché glimpse of hell, a hell that becomes worse and worse the deeper Jacob moves through it. What I really found awesome however, was the fact that this entire film is basically Jacob’s hell. The horrific images of demons and monsters he comes across at the most random of places is epic, and his deceased son(portrayed by a pre-Home Alone Macaulay Culkin) paying him visits was nice conflict and engages the viewer quite well.
Story-wise this film is very well written, and I must applaud writer Bruce Joel Ruben(who wrote Ghost) for his work. As I mentioned earlier, Jacob’s “Hell” feels real, as does the horrific conflict he must endure as he is forced through both what he thinks is real, and…what he thinks is real. Each of the many characters thrown into the story were well-used and none of them really came off as a bother or of little use to the story. Character-wise this film can become a bit confusing if you do not pay full attention, so make a note of that. The film’s climax is an awesome one, and although I found it very fulfilling it does leave quite a few unanswered questions…which is where the fun begins.
Overall, this is an amazing psychological horror film that I recommend to all fans of such films. The writing is great, the direction is top-notch, and the horror…is real.