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on July 5, 2004
Jacob's Ladder is easily one of those underrated gems in the horror genre that aren't gory and don't feature a wisecracking slasher villain to appeal to the horror crowd, yet are surreal and disturbing enough to interest most mainstream audiences.
No doubt that Adrian Lynne has provided the inspiration for several films and music videos with its dark and extremely horrifying images of the rising paranoid insanity that appear in hallucinatory flashbacks at first.
As the story progresses the line between what is real in a war veteran's nightmares and what is not becomes blurred, both for the protagonist himself as well as for the audience, and in such a way that you cannot escape questioning yourself during and after the movie. Questions that do not necessarily lend themselves to easy answers. But the movie offers its own interpretations (in a somewhat watered down ending) while still allowing for the audience to draw its own conclusions.
Everything is right in this movie. The direction, acting and dialogue are intriguing. The plot is intricate but unfolds logically at a decent pace. The photography is atmospheric and and the special effects are understated yet effective. The character of the protagonist is developed immaculately, his anguish is almost palpable.
Unless you're super-squeamish, this is a fascinating movie. Especially if you have a taste for the ilk of Donnie Darko, Lost Highway, or pretty much anything by David Lynch.
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on January 27, 2012
If you're considering buying this movie, it's because you've already seen it,so I don't have to comment the movie, beyond the fact that, for me it's a marvelous psychological drama (4/5 or even 4.5/5). The thing that I want to discuss here, is the fact that the encoding of the movie in blu-ray is really poor(I think it has the same problem on DVD). There's a lot of « minor bugs » and « minor freezing » between scenes or even in the middle of a scene. I've already sent back the 1st copy I had... and when I've watched the movie with my 2nd copy, I still had the same problems... So if you really want it, buy it on Blu-ray, because it seems to have less bugs on this format. BUT If you like the movie, but it's not a must for you, it would be better not to purchase the movie on blu-ray or DVD.
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on November 13, 2006
To call Jacobs Ladder a "horror" movie is a crime. It is so much more. Part psychological thriller, part philosophical journey of dying and part character fed drama, this movie is as good as Hollywood gets.

Many called Tim Robbins portrayal of Jacob Singer, "lethargic" and I couldn't disagree more. Most reviewers fail to realize that the character Jacob was a highly educated, self-controlled man completly unsure of what is happening to him let alone how to react to it and Robbins pulls it off with precision. Actually, Robbins subdued acting technique made the horrors of his psychological torment even that much more of an impact. You feel for his character from the beginning of his macabre saga to the final ending scene where Jacob finally finds eternal peace.

But it is one of those movies where the intelligent moviegoer really gets a bang for his or hers buck. You basically understand that, whether real or not, Jacob is facing death. The subtle metaphors and symbolism in this film are as engrossing as the cinematography and directing. Part of the moviegoer's journey is playing detective and discovering what symbolizes what. For example, towards the end, Jacob goes back home and the doorman opens a wrought iron gate (heavens gate) to let Jacob in. That is just an easy one and there are many many more that make you pay even more attention to the ingenious tool used by the writer and director.

If you want to see an intelligent movie that is as warm as it is horrifying, a movie that makes you ask questions about death, dying and life itself than see Jacobs Ladder.
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on March 19, 2004
I love this movie, it's one of my favorites of all time but the dvd transfer is not up to par. I have the VHS and thought the dvd would be a big improvement but it really wasn't. The dvd has many, many little specs and scratches on the print throughout the entire movie that completely distracted me from enjoying this movie. I just couldn't help it but everytime I tried to get into a scene I ended up wondering why there were so many white spots and scratches on the screen. This is strange to release the dvd with a damaged print but go to the extra effort of making it anamorphic. I don't get it. The vhs is not as sharp but does not contain these distractions. It seems they let the film deteriorate over time or struck the dvd from a different print. The extras that are not labelled on the dvd are a nice touch. A 30 minute documentary as well as deleted scenes and a full commentary by the director. There are actually more deleted scenes from the film that were not included but can be partially seen in the documentary for some reason. Overall, the poor transfer gives me second thoughts about recommending this awesome movie. Hopefully it will be rereleased at some point with a cleaner print and the rest of the deleted scenes. I give the movie itself 5 starts but this particular dvd version only gets a 3.
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on September 22, 2003
First of all, I don't mean to sound holier-than-thou, but a GREAT many reviews of this film give away the entire ending to the film, even if they liked it! I'm not one of that camp, and greatly respect the others here who didn't overindulge their need for analysis in such a revealing way. Ok now with that out of the way, I'll say that Jacob's Ladder is, primarily, a drama, the story of Jacob, a Vietnam vet who is beginning to have troubling nightmares and hallucenations in which his real world is abruptly visited by what appear to be demons. This is where the scares are genuinely startling, enough to classify this film generically as a horror flick even though it isn't at all. You see, the demons Jacob sees appear utterly at random, at any time of day or night, in places safe and otherwise. And he doesn't see them with such regularity that they become boring to the viewer. Rather, they look like humans one second and then suddenly in the next frame they have abruptly become human only in appearance but with frightening features such as grotesque twitching movements and uninvited facial distortions. Describing it can't give it justice, you have to see them and the great editing techniques in which they are shown to see why they're truly so startling. The creatures are seen so suddenly without any tense musical buildup or cue, and usually also after enough normal time has passed, so when they do appear it's such a jarring shock that our reactions of fright aptly mirror those of Jacob himself. Well, once he sees these demons, Jacob tries to figure out what's wrong with him, since he has also been slipping into dreamlike episodes in which he can't tell (nor can we) if he is living or dead, asleep or awake, and which time frame is the real one. It is a confusing film in the storytelling structure, because it cuts back and forth between several apparently different times of Jake's life in which he has, alternately, 2 different wives and a son who is alive at one time and dead at another. The viewer doesn't know initially why Jacob is seeing things, when he's dreaming or not, and which of the lives he's experiencing is the real one. This is a storytelling choice, and it works. Don't worry, you won't be alone because all throughout the film Jake is asking himself why he's seeing things, why he keeps remembering earlier times with his 1st wife (or dreaming of a different life with a second wife), and what is real. Rest assured that by the end of the film you ARE given an ultimate answer that does make sense, but it's been argued that it's the weakest, "letdown" aspect of the movie. I heartily disagree because the ending is one of the several possible outcomes that are hinted at during the film, and I can assume that it was considered a letdown by some because they were hoping for something more profound, or possibly less profound depending on their tastes. But don't worry, I'm not trying to confuse you. As a whole, the movie is a quiet drama in which we follow along with Jacob, trying to figure out why he's seeing what he's seeing, and by the end we do get an absolute answer. It's worth viewing as a horror film as well (though I've pointed out I don't think of it as one) because the moments of shock and horror, and more than anything, just general creepiness, will linger with you for a while. Moments in a subway, a hospital, and (to me) the most disturbing scene in an alleyway will stick with you, and are echoed in films like Session 9 and the Silent Hill video game series (though in Session 9 the threats are far more unseen). If you've had enough patience to read to the end of this, I do urge you to watch this movie objectively, not worrying what the ending will be but instead putting yourself alongside Jacob and trying to digest the info you're being given. Hopefully by the end you'll feel that the last link was completed, and at the very least, you should have had a good chill or 2 down your spine.
PS, IMPORTANT: Please note that while the Jacob's Ladder special edition dvd DOES contain the features listed in the Amazon description, those features ARE NOT listed on the dvd packaging. Don't worry, if you get that creepy dvd with an appropriately blurry Tim Robbins on the cover and the words "Special edition", you got the right disc. Good luck, and I sincerely hope you enjoy (and get freaked out by) Jacob's Ladder.
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on March 16, 2003
Jacob's Ladder open's with New York postal worker Jacob Singer waking on a subway train having just experienced a nightmare flashback to his time in Vietnam. Upset and confused he tries to ask his fellow passengers if he has missed his stop but as he passes them he sees flashes of tails and horns in the uncommunicative people whom he approaches for help. Exiting the train he finds the stairs to the subway locked and on crossing the tracks he narrowly misses being hit by a train coming in the other direction and whilst lying on the track he witnesses yet more disturbing images as the train passes by. Unsure whether these images are real or as a result of some form of post traumatic stress disorder from his time in 'Nam, he struggles to keep his grip on sanity as his life becomes a nightmare, with his days punctuated by visions of demons, his first wife and his dead son. His life begins to unravel and the line between reality and delusion becomes ever more fragile.
This is, in my opinion, by far and away Adrian Lyne's best movie, which may surprise some people given the fact his CV includes big box office hits such as 9 ½ Weeks, Indecent Proposal and Fatal Attraction. His direction is subtle, considered, well-paced and as near as you'll get to perfect. The cinematography is also excellent and the use of special effects are relatively understated but effective, which is something that can rarely be said since the advent of CGI. As for Bruce Joel Rubin's screenplay no praise is too high. It is intelligent, intricate and complex and it keeps you guessing until the end. In fact there is so much in this movie that second time around you'll find yourself picking up clues that you missed first time around and appreciate the cleverness and different levels of the story even more. Tim Robbins is excellent as Jacob, whom he succeeds in making a very sympathetic and vulnerable character, whose life literally becomes a nightmare. The supporting cast is excellent too with Elizabeth Pena (La Bamba, Rush Hour etc) and Danny Aiello (Leon, Do The Right Thing) in particular putting in notable performances. Jacob's Ladder also features supporting performances from Matt Craven (The Life of David Gale), Jason Alexander (Seinfeld) and Eriq La Salle (ER).
I first saw Jacob's Ladder at the cinema when it first opened back in 1990. I had read an article about it in a magazine, which was complete with disturbing still photographs from the movie. The article was intriguing in that it said that the screenplay, written by Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost) had been doing the rounds in Hollywood for several years but that although everybody agreed it was an excellent screenplay it had been considered unfilmable until Director Adrian Lyne got hold of it. On the day before seeing 'Jacobs Ladder', for the first time, a review in the now defunct British newspaper 'Today' described it as a five star classic and I still remember watching it in the cinema on its opening night, transfixed by the story and disturbed by the images, whilst jumping out of my seat a few times. I have loved this movie ever since and have loaned out my old VHS copy many times since then but what still surprises me is that so few people seem to know this movie or have seen this movie, which to me seems like a crime.
Perhaps Jacobs Ladder's lack of box office success can be put down to it often being classified as a horror movie, which is to do it an enormous disservice. Sure there are elements of Jacob's Ladder that can be compared to the horror genre but it is so much more than that. Complex, downbeat but also spiritually uplifting it was perhaps too intelligent and too disturbing to achieve a mass appeal. However, it still amazes me and saddens me that real dross such as Vanilla Sky has many people waxing lyrical when something as good, sorry excellent as this slips by relatively unnoticed. Jacob's Ladder I would suggest is a superior forerunner to movies such as Vanilla Sky and even The Sixth Sense and I highly recommend it!
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on September 4, 2001
While Jacob is lying on the table in the field hospital his body fights for life while his mind and soul are freed or stimulated to see the future.Most of the story is flash-forward--not flash-back!He sees himself,after Nam,struggling to get back to normal.What some viewers see as bad acting is a very good portrayal of post-traumatic stress syndrome and depression.He finally gets some control over his life and achieves financial success only to witness his son struck and killed while riding a bike. The prospect of recovering from his war wounds,the suffering he witnessed in the war and his painful stateside experiences only to return to a life of psychological torment and then after some healing to watch his son die is too much and his mind and soul give up. Was his vision the long accepted spiritual tale of one's life passing before one's eyes or a trick played on him by a very sophisticated drug? The medics thought he put up a good fight to survive---but they didn't know that he gave up!Was it to avoid more psychological pain to himself or was it to save the life of the son who would never be born to atone for killing he may have done under the influence of the drug. Just as TV "MASH" sought to show the goofy human peace-loving nature of kids stimulated to war,so does the mystery drug represent all the hidden powers and agendas that toy with our thin layer of humanity.More allegories and symbols appear each time I see this flic.One of my TOP 10! I sensed that others didn't want to give away too much. Don't worry--it only gets better!
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on April 22, 2004
Released during a time when horror movies meant bloodsplattered, plotless sequels ("Nightmare on Elm Street XXXVII" or "Halloween 213-Jason Eats Romania"), JACOB'S LADDER was a truly unnerving, disturbing horror film which resorted very infrequently to gore. This is a monster movie of the mind. You can read other reviewers comments for the plot; I won't waste Amazon's real estate on repeating that. What needs to be reiterated is that this movie captures that nightmare world between consciousness and unconsciousness: that troubled sleep, as Sartre put it.
The direction and editing are nearly flawless. And, across the board, the performances are electric. I have no idea what Rochell O'Gorman means by saying Tim Robbins' performance was "lethargic". His moments of fear, confusion, and sorrow are consistently convincing. And his few minutes of relief at the hands of his chiropractor (Danny Aiello in an unusually sweet turn, for him) also offer the viewer a break from the relentlessly frightening images. However, when those few moments pass, the horror that follows is made even more terrifying. At the very least, this movie deserves a viewing by everyone, horror movie fan or not.
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on January 27, 2004
A friend of mine was telling me that he saw a movie I had to see. He knows I'm a Silent Hill fanatic and told me that this movie was the inspiration for the game. Intrigued I naturally went on a mad hunt for this very hard to find DVD. Eventually I found a copy and bought it without thinking twice.
I was very eager to see this movie, and as it started up I sat at the edge of my seat waiting for signs of the inspiration that would later end up in Silent Hill. I saw some minor things at first, but soon found myself interested in this movie for another reason, to be honest the only reason you need to watch this movie, its plot.
Everything in this movie makes sense from an artistic standpoint, everything in this film means something, everything has a rhym and reason, which these days is rare, especially for this kind of movie. Twist ending aside I firmly believe that this is the movie the Cell should have been. Granted this movie is the exploration of (spoiler alert) the mind of a man who is dying, where as the Cell is the exploration of the mind of a cerel killer, but this movie had meaning, where as the cell was a jumbled mess of expensive imagry.
It's rare to find a psychological thriller this deep, and this powerful. While the film isn't scary some scenes stay with you whith you for a while. The thoughts expressed about the difference between demons and angels, and what they represent are simple, yet brilliant.
As the film progresses the visuals do become more and more like Silent Hill (particularly the 3rd installment's creature feature
Viatel whose head moves in very much the same way that the demons do in this film.) There were moments that were scary, but overall this film is less about scares, and more about the state of the human mind during death, and coping with dying. In that regard this movie handles the subject of dying better than the vast majority of psychological thrillers. Its beautifully written, and masterfully executed, and yes, for Silent Hill fans there are monsters and scense in here that seem to have had a direct influence over the game series, (although Silent Hill is tremendously more greusome) particularly the scene in the assylum.
Although the video transfer is relatively poor (watching on a widescreen HDTV), and the sound is not as good as other, higher end DVDs this film is a must have for horror, suspense, or even drama fans. This film is so well done it can easily fit into any of the aforementioned categories. While not for everyone (the film is a deep thinker) I'm honestly suprised that this movie isn't considered a classic, or the masterpiece it aught to be considered.
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on November 12, 2003
The reason I have decided to right a review for this film is because I have been constantly thinking about it lately, despite the fact that I rented it over 4 weeks ago. This is truly an odd and perplexing film but genius and entertaining none the least. I may be 13, but I am an avid movie-watcher and know how to evaluate them also. (I keep a movie journal of every film I view with my personal rating.) I would rate this particular movie a 9.0/10. It shines with true originality, but is certainly not for everyone because it's too smart for the masses. It IS very confusing at times, but that adds to the appeal in my opinion. It is also particularly difficult to classify in genre.(a subject I have noticed in other reviews) I put down the genre(s) for each movie in my movie journal and I called this... Suspense/Drama/Thriller. It has some particular horrific images, yes, but does not maintain the atmosphere for a "horror" movie, nor does it consistently frighten or leave the viewer in a state of perpetual fright. I must admit that I was on edge though throughout the film due to some pretty scary parts...(particularly the alley-way scene!) I believe the main reason I keep thinking about this movie is because of the reason Jacob's having these hallucinations and the note about it being real at the end of the film. I am not going to go into further discussion of this though for it might spoil the fun for some, but if you have seen this, you know what I'm talking about. In conclusion, I think you should see this true gem of a movie because I guarentee it will be on your mind for a long time.I have never seen a film quite like this and am thinking about purchasing it. Thanks.
-Riley E.
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