Saying that the mind is a mysterious force behind our every move is an understatement. My opinion is that what goes on inside our heads is so complex and abstract that I can’t even begin to describe it. Psychologists and biologists have a lot of fancy vocabulary to describe the mechanics behind it, but everyone’s is so different and reacts in its own unique way. But this isn’t a blog about the mind, it’s a review of Jacob’s Ladder, a film that ares to go to the darkest recesses of our minds and make us rethink life, death, and the world that we inhabit.
Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) isn’t having a good time. First his youngest son dies and then he is shipped to Vietnam to serve his country. While he is there, his platoon is attacked and he gets severely injured. Now home after an honorable discharge, he is divorced from his wife and living with his girlfriend, Jezebel (Elizabeth Peña). Soon, Jacob’s life begins to spiral out of control after he begins seeing warped demonic creatures following him and trying to harm him. Are these creatures just figments of Jacob’s imagination caused by a severe case of PTSD? Are they real supernatural entities out for his blood? Is this all part of some government conspiracy?
I can’t answer any of these questions because that would completely ruin the movie. Since I watched the movie last night, I’ve been dreading writing this review because I have no idea how I’m going to be able to do it justice without revealing too much. Jacob’s Ladder is really a film that has to be seen and experienced to really appreciate this review, but to hell with it. I’ll give it my best shot.
“That movie made me so scared to go home.”
The above quote is something my friend said to me when we were talking about it this evening. It’s true, this movie is unusually terrifying in its own unique, disorienting way. There are things that are seen in this movie that are purely Jacob’s Ladder. What I mean by that is that I haven’t seen anything the resembles the movie before it, and I haven’t seen anything quite like it since. The scares are shocking in a body horror kind of way, but also in a way that affects the viewer mentally. There’s an awesome effect used that has become pretty famous of one of the creature’s heads shaking violently very quickly while his body is completely still. It’s a bizarre, creative technique that is actually not too hard to accomplish. The camera used was simply filming at a very low shutter speed, and no extra special effects were added. You don’t need CGI to have awesome effects.
So thats the scry bits, but lets not forget how absolutely intentionally confusing Jacob’s Ladder is. It is the job of the writer and the director to make the audience feel what the characters, mainly the protagonist, is feeling throughout the film. How well this is pulled off depends on how good the film makers are at their craft. The viewer will feel completely immersed in Jacob’s Ladder, and even after it’s over, you’ll still feel like your subconscious is lingering in the world of the movie. During the course of the narrative, I felt just as confused and disoriented as Jacob, and I was really curious as to the answers involved in this psychological mystery. This movie left me in a strange and contemplative mood.
It’s always shitty when movies don’t live up to the hype that surrounds them. Jacob’s Ladder did not let me down. This is one of those exceptional pieces of film making that will generate a physical, along with mental, reaction from the viewer. It’s terrifying and sad, confusing and tragic. Most of all, it’s a fantastic psychological thriller that will never be forgotten.