Monster Monday: Jacob’s Ladder

We open amidst the Vietnam War and meet our main character, Jacob (Tim Robbins), and his fellow soldiers amidst a horrible attack. As the horrors of war escalate he awakens on the New York City subway (pre-renovation! The real horror!) Immediately we feel the unease as he navigates the train. The tone and sound design of this scene alone already tells me I won’t like this movie at all. Not because it’s bad but because it’s just creepy enough that I won’t trust anything normal, I just know it. The uneasy tension attributed to quote-unquote normal circumstances creates that dread-heavy feeling throughout the film, making you unsure just what could unravel and praying it won’t.

Unfortunately, that’s where the scares ended for me and the sheer madness began. Clearly affected by the intense PTSD from his days in the war, Jacob is triggered constantly seeing monsters and hallucinatory evils at every turn. On top of the grief he feels from the loss of his son, Gabe, he is pushed into madness as his doting girlfriend Jezzie (Elizabeth Pena), tries desperately to keep him anchored.

There are some decently scary imagery throughout this thing, but there are also some very hokey ones too. That may lend towards the fact that this film is almost 30 years old, but some of the scares worked way better than others. It is definitely gross and disturbing at moments, but above all the imagery is there to make you feel uncomfortable. It makes you not trust the character’s surroundings almost as much as he comes to distrust it and his paranoia bleeds into your viewing experience as well.

Aaaaaand then there’s the ending…

This ending is kind of infamous in film circles for being incredibly divisive. Smart? A cop out? I will agree I don’t really know how I feel about it. I truly can’t spoil it otherwise this movie is literally pointless to watch, but still, I would give it a view just to see if you feel relieved, infuriated, or just altogether lost as the credits roll.

I think this movie is genuinely smart at its core. Its script is confusing and sometimes maddening, but it’s supposed to be. I think the ending presented more questions than solutions, but I think if it went any other way it would have been even more open ended. In a film that presents more questions than answers, I assume it is the best it could do.

Amy’s Recommendation: 6/10

Found on Amazon Prime

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