Fright Fest Review #4: Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

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Rub-a-dub-dub, ‘Nam flashbacks in the tub!

Subgenre:  Psychological

Summary:  A Vietnam vet begins to experience disturbing hallucinations in his day-to-day life.

Review:  Though Jacob’s Ladder isn’t a horror movie in the purest sense, it contains several moments that are more disturbing than those of more traditional entries in the genre.  Tim Robbins is excellent as Jacob Singer, a Vietnam vet who, despite having successfully re-entered society, finds himself the object of increasingly strange encounters.  These range from subtly menacing looks from strangers on the train to visions of inhuman attackers.  Though Jacob does his best to ignore them, the hallucinations grow in frequency and intensity, forcing him to question his entire reality.

Jacob’s Ladder focuses more on mood than on story.  This ultimately works in its favor, since its visuals and atmosphere are top-notch.  We feel just as disoriented as Jacob as his world crumbles around him, and we’re just as helpless to prevent the seemingly unreal visions from taking very real tolls.  Jacob’s Ladder contains a handful of extended sequences that pull the viewer into Jacob’s nightmares, and their twisted imagery leaves an indelible mark.  This movie does have a plot, but it’s doled out in small doses until the very end, which offers a surprisingly satisfying amount of closure.

The Verdict:  Jacob’s Ladder is haunting and affecting, with more on its mind than the average horror flick.  I give it eight horrific hallucinations out of ten.

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