Director Adrian Lyne’s Jacob’s Ladder is without question one of the finest horror films ever made. A film to really screw with your head, and one that doesn’t make things clear until the final moments. Watching Tim Robbin’s exceptional performance as Jacob Singer is challenging, upsetting, unsettling, disturbing and frightening as Hell.
Robbin’s portrayal of a man quite literally going to Hell is breathtaking, and at times heartbreaking. He, and a few of his comrades from Vietnam are struggling to deal with the after effects of war, the guilt, the paranoia, and the worrying question of if they are actually alive. All is revealed, but the journey to find the answers is not an easy one. The blistering opening to the film will already have your attention as we hear those scary words “there’;s movement in the treelines!!!” and after that we move forward to present day, and we meet Singer going about his everyday life working for the postal service. Charming, natural and a general nice chap, he lives with his very attractive girlfriend Jezzie (Elizabeth Pena). However, life is about to turn darker and darker as Jacob believes he is seeing Demons following him. Not even his chiropractor Loius (a wonderful Danny Aiello) who looks “like an Angel” can stop poor Jacob’s descent into madness.
Horrific visions, monsters in cars and freaks people with really shaky heads continue to bombard Jacob on a daily basis. He has no idea who to turn to, and things build to a disastrous moment when his Jezzie finally finds out just how far gone Jacob is. It all happens at a wild party, Jacob is shy, reluctant to dance but enjoys watching Jezzie flaunt her sexy looks. Jacob looks on, and so far all is well…
Paranoia begins to kick in as Jacob spots a demon in the corner, flying monsters appear overhead, and his Jezzie appears to be having a little too much fun with a stranger. A sudden burst of strobe lighting reveal that the man behind Jezzie is in fact a horrible monster, complete with what appear to be tentacles which scratch and perversely caress Jezzie. Jacob looks on in terror as the beast gets closer, and eventually kills Jezzie by plowing a sharp claw through her mouth. Jacob, naturally, freaks out and collapses, and Jezzie has to then deal with a man clearly not well and in serious need of some help.
This scene alone shows the brilliance of Lyne’s directing skills. The film has a murky, misty feel to it from beginning to end, and you can almost smell the stench of death and paranoia. The scene also shows just how great a performance Tim Robbins gave in this film, and it also shows the desperation one must feel being in such a deluded state. What we also get is one of the finest descents into the darkest corners of the mind ever put to film. Jacob’s Ladder is a film that will haunt and disturb you, and it is very likely that many scenes (including this one) will appear in your nightmares. A classic horror in every sense, and one that has lost none of its power with age, and if anything it has gained more strength as it has aged.
Check out the rather wonderful scene below, and my Death Scene of the Week.