Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Film Review: Jacob's Ladder (1990)

Jacob's Ladder (Review)
United States/1990
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Streaming
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...a film that demands a second viewing, and I don't mind giving into those demands."

Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins), a Vietnam War veteran turned postal worker, suffers from bizarre and even dangerous hallucinations induced by his war experiences and the loss of his son prior...

Jacob's Ladder follows Jacob as he tries to connect the pieces. He struggles to remember one seemingly significant night during the Vietnam War -- a night that he dreams of constantly -- and suffers from vivid, nightmarish hallucinations. At the same time, Jacob's life is in constant danger as he is attacked by strangers. The plot thickens when his platoon confess to having similar symptoms. What happened on that night in Vietnam? Is the army responsible? Or have they lost their minds? Jacob's Ladder leads to a haunting yet meaningful ending -- an ending we've seen plenty of times by now, but an ending I'd say is iconic and shocking, especially for those who aren't familiar with the psychological sub-genre of horror films.

Jacob's Ladder is an incredibly engaging, subtly horrifying, and superbly effective mystery film. I was hooked from beginning to end; being someone who's seen hundreds and hundreds of films, I saw the ending coming for quite some time, but I appreciated it, regardless. The film is ambiguous and symbolic -- two attributes that helped further immerse me into Jacob's Ladder. This isn't a traditional horror film -- don't expect gallons of blood or gore, don't expect jump-scares or loud-noises, and so on. Instead, Jacob's Ladder works as a moderately paced slow-burn, really eating at your psyche. It features a well-developed ominous atmosphere, as well. Jacob's Hallucinations are as honest as they can get -- there not overwhelming, but they are realistic, in a sense.

The mystery is engaging. It often jumps from reality to fantasy, from present to past. Some of Jacob's hallucinations and delusions works so well, I felt like I was hallucinating. What I'm saying is: Jacob's Ladder is a film that distorts reality, and with good reason. I know the destination, right, but I don't know how I'm going to get there. There are hints scattered throughout the film, some more blatant than others, and some possible symbolism. Consequently, Jacob's Ladder is a film that demands a second viewing, and I don't mind giving into those demands.

Tim Robbins plays the lead, and he plays the lead well, especially during the most demanding scenes; for some odd reasons, though, I felt like this role would've been better suited for Michael Douglas. (Why?) The film is shot well, including the Vietnam scenes. It's not heavy on special effects, but the makeup is great when it's used. The music is subtle, blending well with the film. Adrian Lyne is fantastic in crafting such an ominous atmosphere and telling such an immersive mystery.

Overall, Jacob's Ladder is a haunting psychological horror film. The horror is subtle, and may not be appreciated by the jump-scare fans (which I'm occasionally a part of), but I found it to be psychologically disturbing. The plot kept me engaged, and often had me questioning my own sanity. (I'm not crazy, trust me.) I loved the story so much, I plan on giving it another go as soon as possible. I strongly recommend this masterpiece for open-minded fans and fans of challenging and ambiguous films.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood, some gore, and nudity. (Jacob's girlfriend is often topless, and a few other topless scenes, as well.)

No comments:

Post a Comment