Jacob’s Ladder (1990)


Jacob’s Ladder is a film by Adrian Lyne and Mario Kassar starring Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Peña, Daniel Aiello and Matt Craven. It tells the story of Jacob Singer, a Vietnam war veteran who suffers from hallucinations and flashbacks that affect his daily life in the city of New York.

I watched this in a dark, cold and damp room: a relatively silent environment, this must have amplified the effects of the film quite a bit… And what effects! The increasingly bizarre hallucinations Jacob gets are fascinating, I couldn’t look away, but I was mortified, digusted and truly disheartened by the insanity and the depressingly disorientating experience the succession of events with intermittent flashbacks provided. And when I say increasingly, I mean it’s a crescendo of malaise-inducing visions so immersive and captivating it managed to make me forget I was safe and sound, I truly felt the creeping demons were out to get me.

Psychological horror is not exactly, sensu stricto, “disgusting”, however, it altered my perception and reminded me of my potential impotence and inadequacy in the face of insanity, the film wasn’t actively trying to scare me away, it drained my positive emotions.

I looked up the original meaning of “Jacob’s Ladder”, and it’s a biblical story, and Jacob Singer mentions his sons are named after characters in the Bible, in fact, mostly every significant character is a reference to the Bible:

What truly impressed me was the continuous ambiguity and the complete lack of guidelines in the storytelling, so much is open to interpretation it can be frustrating and difficult to follow, but makes the film quite appropriate for late night re-viewings.

This is best enjoyed as a fantastic work of cinematographic art, not the average horror film.

If you’re frightened of dying, and you’re holding on, you’ll see devils tearing your life away. If you’ve made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the Earth.