Jacob's Ladder (1990)
A tortured man finds himself caught in a middle-ground between hallucination and reality in this supernatural thriller, scripted by Bruce Joel Rubin of Ghost (1990) and My Life (1993). Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) is a soldier stationed in Vietnam who undergoes a traumatic experience on the battlefield - the nature of which is initially unclear. The film then moves into his post-Vietnam experience in 1970s New York, where he feels consistently traumatized, but can never quite remember exactly what happened to him in Southeast Asia or to free himself from his anxieties over the recent tragic death of his young son (Macaulay Culkin). Though well educated, Jacob works as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service and has become romantically involved with one of his co-workers, Jezzie (Elizabeth Pena), after divorcing his wife. Soon, Jacob's tenuous hold on reality starts to slip as horrifying events befall him; he is nearly run over by a subway train, pursued by faceless demons in cars, and spots reptilian tails and horns protruding from the bodies of those he encounters. Jacob also suffers severe panic attacks related to the chaos that may be reality, or may exist only in his mind. He seeks counsel from Louis (Danny Aiello), a kindly chiropractor, as his ex-wife Sarah (Patricia Kalember), fellow Vietnam vet Paul (Pruitt Taylor Vince), and enigmatic stranger Michael (Matt Craven) all try to help the tortured soul. Jason Alexander, Ving Rhames and Eriq LaSalle highlight the supporting cast. … More
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Critic Reviews for Jacob's Ladder
It's weird and surreal, but it ends with most of the holes plugged and all but a few of the loose ends tied into a tidy package. Some argue this is a cheat and the film should have been more open ended. That's a personal choice; I like it the way it is.
For hours and days after you've seen it, you'll still be putting it together in your head. While all of it is gripping, it doesn't come together until the final scene, which is jolting, transcendent, unexpected yet inevitable.
As long as the movie refuses to commit itself, it is a truly creepy, nerve-jangling experience.
In the best puzzle movies, the pieces fit -- eventually. But if you try to piece together Jacob's Ladder, all you get for your trouble is more pieces.
Without a strongly sympathetic figure at the center of the movie, Jacob's plight seems very remote. Watching this film should feel like being caught in a nightmare, but it feels more like watching someone else who is caught in a nightmare.
[Robbins' and Pena's] scenes together are the highlight of the film, so natural, so bright. That's why we're willing to invest a lot of time in what turns out to be a terribly overwrought plot.
Jacob's Ladder is unique. Rarely is such an unconventional screenplay given this full-blown, $25 million studio treatment. It is a curiosity -- a mutant of a movie in an industry that specializes in clones.
One of Robbins' finest unheralded performances, plus a slew of supporting roles from then-unknowns Eriq LaSalle, Ving Rhames, Jason Alexander, Pruitt Taylor Vince, and an uncredited Macaulay Culkin.
Every story needs some kernel of internal logic, some hold on reality. But Lyne's film is like trying to scale a mountain of Jello. There's no solid ground. Everything is constantly shifting and undulating.
Just when it's on the brink of becoming one of the most disturbing, disorienting and penetrating psychological horror movies, Jacob's Ladder -- in a self-deflating few minutes -- turns itself into a shaggy-dog story.
Despite its frequently maddening lapses in logic and time frame, Jacob`s Ladder transcends most script ills to become a haunting and truly chilling thriller-melodrama.
Jacob's Ladder takes a long time getting to the point, and when it does, there isn't that much to it.
Tim Robbins gives a strong performance in this first-class horror yarn, which has a surprisingly strong political edge.
Jacob's Ladder only belongs to the horror genre insofar as it understands these conventions well enough to simultaneously borrow from and transcend them. In the process, it becomes something else altogether.
Unfairly dismissed on its original release, this really deserves to be better known: the ultimate example of bad-trip mainstream cinema.
Audience Reviews for Jacob's Ladder
This is good psychological horror toying with the possibility of being great psychological horror. It never quite gets there, but it comes very, very close.More
Jacob's Ladder is one of the best psychological horror films that I have seen. Supported by a great cast, Jacob's Ladder is a creepy film. A man suffers from hallucinations after returning from the Vietnam war. The film is haunting and powerful and is a different type of horror film that blends elements of the supernatural. Jacob's Ladder is a superbly crafted film that is one intense ride through one mans conscience. Superbly acted by Tim Robbins, Jacob's Ladder successfully makes the audience uncomfortable as we see the main character, Jacob Singer go through these eerie hallucinations. Jacob's Ladder is an accomplished film with a powerful story and a strong cast. The film is not your typical horror as it is a psychological horror film. The films delivers the chills it promises and the story is well developed with well defined characters. Overall this is solid filmmaking Adrian Lyne has crafted the psychological horror film to see. This film is far better than any other genre film that came after it and it delivers a creepy vibe that you won't easily forget. Jacob's Ladder is the film that defined the term psychological horror, and it does it by delivering something an audience has never seen before. Jacob's Ladder is a film not to miss. This is one of Tim Robbin's best performances along with The Shawshank Redemption. Jacob's Ladder redefined and reinvented the horror genre, and by watching it, you'll understand why.More
A Vietnam War veteran (Tim Robbins) starts seeing demonic faces and hallucinating, while at the same time some of his old army buddies are turning up dead. He becomes paranoid that the Washington brass are hiding a secret revolving around the day he was wounded as his squad was slaughtered in the field. Psychological drama is worthwhile due to some intense hallucination sequences, but the film would have benefitted from more misdirection in the early reels to make the big revelation feel like a climax instead of an anticlimax.More
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