Jacob’s Ladder (1990) – Such a Surreal Place

“Jacob’s Ladder” spawn many pop culture before M. Night Shyamalan introduced his consciousness trademark style. In addition, this movie gets a cult following including inspiring the “Silent Hill” franchise. After Adrian Lyne made Michael Douglas have to run away from fear in “Fatal Attraction”, this movie is a psychological horror mystery about paranoia. It’s about delusions after the Vietnam war and the reality blurs. The main character creates an uncomfortable yet unsettling psychological fear and terror.

Brooklyn, 1975. Tim Robbins as Jacob Singer, the Vietnam war veteran felt tremendous anxiety. He often dreams of his difficult times when he was at war. Strangely enough, all of that felt real to him. He was like seeing strange creatures around him. It’s like a demon. It comes from behind the wall. It all began when his terrible memories while on duty in Vietnam again haunted him. However, he seems to live happily with popularity. Elizabeth Peña as Jezzie is a woman who loves Jacob very much.

Apart from having a dream woman with a qualified life, Jacob himself didn’t feel comfortable. His past often haunted him where he still considers it real. The past came before he participated in the war in Vietnam. He still couldn’t forget his late son Macaulay Culkin as Gabe. That then caused him to divorce his wife. The memory of the Vietnam war caused Gabe’s shadow. Mysterious figures began to approach him and he felt haunted by mistakes and heavy regrets. Jacob begins to question his sanity and is determined to find out if there is a conspiracy or experiment in himself. Maybe, what if he was dreaming?

“Jacob’s Ladder” isn’t a hard movie, to begin with. Indeed, this film requires special concentration as well as psychology movies in general. Unlike other psychology films, this film has a lot of symbolism. It’s so amazing there are so many metaphors especially if Lyne tries to connect it with philosophical from the Bible, mythology, and other puzzles. Its narrative runs non-linear which is hard why this film is rather difficult to consume. There is so much transition but you would find it easy to distinguish between the past and the current event. The problem is that this isn’t general. The audience tries to watch a dynamic displacement by distinguishing what’s real and what’s a dream.

Lyne tried to provoke our emotions by describing the jumping overlapping scenes. But, the second viewing of this movie is a different experience. I can see again what the meaning of symbolism was. While the first viewing seems easy to understand the ambiguity and the plot twist, I prefer the second viewing. Believe me, the climax of the movie really looks ridiculous. Similar to any ambiguity movie, “Jacob’s Ladder” requires the digestion process of each narrative.

Horror, suspension, thriller, psychology, and drama. Lyne mixes it neatly and structurally. Besides not adhering to the ideology of linear-ism, some parts are so manipulative. You don’t even really understand what and why or you might think that this is real while this is also real. Robbins is like a depressed man. He brought to life the character of Jacob Singer himself who was full of anxiety, fear, and bitterness. Mature precision and qualified actors. It’s like you hate and feel sorry for his character. There is a game between upset and pity. There are sympathy and anger.

“Jacob’s Ladder” takes a lot of references from the Bible if you don’t think too much about it better to watch it twice. There is so much to talk about this movie. If you look closely, there is clearly a foreshadowing to collect the clue. Briefly, this movie is like a contemplative.

Like the Lynchian, Lyne used a surrealist approach with full metaphysical reasoning. It’s about myth, afterlife, or the life of how “if” the main characters live. Basically, we never know what death is like or what awaits death. What’s more, we never know what a picture of hell or heaven is like. Indeed, talking about this must be related to each other’s religion. But, this is an important point this film wants to be discussed. The only question is, what is the picture of death?

“Jacob’s Ladder” has a unique distinction in a way that’s even very difficult to imagine. Nearly 30 years ago, this film was a cinematic achievement. It popularized so much in the horror genre itself. The demons effect in this movie is just caught me from every corner. It’s very smooth, no CGI, and terrifying yet neat cinematography. Of course, brilliant acting and great chemistry between Robbins and Peña. The film should fit into a cult following and deserve it.

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Salman Al Farisi

An Indonesian who loves to watch and read everything. A literary student who likes to write about reviews and essays on Crackdown Review. But, I just wannabe critics who love arthouse than anything.

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