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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 11.11%
Average: 2.22%
Pretty Bad: 4.44%
Total Crap: 1.11%

3 reviews, 72 user ratings

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Jacob's Ladder
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Dennis Swennumson

"Coming soon: 'Jacob's Chutes and Ladders'"
5 stars

“Jacob’s Ladder” is horror in its purest form, a movie that puts the viewer in a desperate state of bewilderment and vulnerability as it progresses into dark territories. It’s about a Vietnam Vet’s descent into madness, where his nightmares and flashbacks begin to materialize in his waking hours. The audience experiences this mental breakdown right along with Jacob, the answers don’t come easy and rarely satisfy the questions. Director Adrian Lyne, who made “Fatal Attraction” and “Unfaithful”, has created a chilling vision of hell with this movie; it’s horror on the quality level of “The Shining” or “The Exorcist.”

The movie opens with a frantic Vietnam flashback to a conflict that goes horribly wrong, we don’t know how or why, but madness ensues and many of the soldiers are killed. Jacob, played by Tim Robbins, survived that tragedy and now works as a postal worker, we are introduced to his new life as he rides the subway home after work. He reads an ominous anti-drug advertisement that reads “HELL”, a stark reminder of what is to be experienced. He finds himself at the mercy of an increasing amount of night terrors and flashbacks to Vietnam and the tragedy that ripped apart his first marriage. “Jacob’s Ladder” is a movie that effectively scrambles the formulas of horror, manipulating our pre-conceived notions of post-traumatic stress disorder and the breakdown of mental health.

“Jacob’s Ladder” consistently keeps the audience on edge; every scene has potential to turn into an episode of frightening delusions. A quick readjustment from his chiropractor (Danny Aiello in an inspired performance) sends Jacob back to the Mekong Delta, in another scene he is pursued down an alley by a car seemingly full of demons. One of the movie’s more disturbing sequences takes place during a party Jacob attends, eventually turning into a literal orgy of horrifying images, culminating when a winged monster rapes his girlfriend (Elizabeth Pena). Each of these occurrences is treated as a dream; “Jacob’s Ladder” generates most of its interest by leaving the task of figuring out what is real and what is nightmare up to the viewer.

There are many films that abuse the devices of flashback and dream sequences, constantly utilizing them to cheat and annoy the audience. This film is essentially made up of dream sequences, but “Jacob’s Ladder” avoids that flaw by making all of its surreal terrifying imagery the reality. Jacob’s madness is always there, from when he attempts to hire a lawyer to sue the government or when he discovers the true nature of what happened on that woeful day during the war. “Jacob’s Ladder” is the kind of film that obviously will conclude with a twist, and it does, but it’s the kind of ending that doesn’t swindle the viewer.

In fact it’s an ending that benefits from multiple viewings; “Jacob’s Ladder” is one of the most engaging, shocking and influential horror films- more in video games than movies-of the last twenty years.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 09/20/04 07:52:29
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User Comments

4/02/13 David Hollingsworth frightening, eerie exercise in non-horror filmmaking 5 stars
7/09/09 joey jo poss:end is really him letting memories of nam die, he lives on and is free of the horror. 5 stars
1/25/09 Allen genius a tremendously affecting experience 5 stars
11/20/08 remey Seen it when it first came out. I was only 12. Scared the holy shit out of me. 5 stars
5/31/08 Mike great insight into the mind of a man who is slowly leaving this life and entering the next. 5 stars
5/30/08 Candy War Hole Don't listen to him, Silent hill is but a pale immitation of how horrifying this movie is. 5 stars
3/26/08 shirley the best novie ever done Ambrose Bierce 100 years in the future 5 stars
2/02/08 Alex Hole hell. This is the scariest film I've ever seen, period. 5 stars
11/26/07 melonblast357 Phenomenal film; scares the living shit outta me still!!! 5 stars
8/01/07 fools♫gold Burnin my memories away... 5 stars
7/22/07 Sergio Original, intelligent. Atmospheric . 5 stars
6/27/07 Steve Scariest movies ever! Very Underrated 5 stars
6/20/07 karmajaxx very good film that engages the mind and stays with you long after the movie is over. 4 stars
5/20/07 action movie fan obscure plot-not scary or very interesting 2 stars
4/10/07 ES-designr Great movie. Critics seem to ignore some dimensions and meaning of the story. 5 stars
8/26/06 james burke "It won't just scare you-it will fuck you up for life" 4 stars
7/21/06 BC As a big Silent Hill fan I've always wanted to see it. I just did. It's great! 5 stars
3/12/06 Joshua Webb Excellent, a film that really defines horror. Not frightening, but disturbing, in my view. 4 stars
1/16/06 Tim My Favorite movie. Basta 5 stars
12/12/05 daniel incredibly smart script, perfectly directed 5 stars
11/24/05 Indrid Cold Far above average for sure, but not quite the scariest thing I've ever seen. 5 stars
9/30/05 ShabbaRanks Overrated-as-all-hell, BUT...still interesting. Definite creepiness abounds. Crap ending. 4 stars
8/26/05 JamesBorges good review, good movie 4 stars
8/19/05 ES Not the great movie they make it out to be, confusing and gross at times 2 stars
3/24/05 matjaž it lacks of good cinamatography 4 stars
3/12/05 craig varney never saw what was coming 4 stars
2/27/05 mike excellant 5 stars
2/11/05 Jeff Anderson AN INTENSE MIND TRIP DONE RIGHT! Scary, thought-provoking, smartly written & acting's GREAT 5 stars
1/13/05 Dondi Ligon An excellent psychological thriller!!! 5 stars
12/16/04 jake a truly frightening experience. even avid horror fans will get scared...arrgh 5 stars
11/15/04 Billy Pitts Based on Ambrose Bierce's short story: Incident at Owl Creek Bridge. Enjoyed it very much. 5 stars
10/22/04 Vince Very good script and acting. Highly Recommended. 5 stars
9/22/04 Al Guy A smart movie that is chilling. Rare these days. 5 stars
6/30/04 Anita Wow. This movie relies solely on good acting, good script and symbolism and it delivers! 5 stars
4/08/04 baker what horror should be like 5 stars
4/04/04 Matthew Great film, one that will stay with you for years to come. 5 stars
4/03/04 john a truly original thriller - great concept and brilliantly shot 5 stars
3/20/04 true review a must see, not just a movie, a journey into mind and soul, triumphant walk thru purgatory 5 stars
2/26/04 Shieldknight Frightening. Captivating. A monumental film in which tension builds until the final frame. 5 stars
12/07/03 Gary Exceptionally Outstanding, A Real Mind Job! Whew...It left a permanent impression upon me. 5 stars
11/25/03 Artist Freak Scary as hell, and intelligent enough to keep you guessing. 5 stars
9/18/03 Harry Mason Scariest movie ever. 5 stars
8/31/03 Jacob It makes me wonder - does any of this really exist? 5 stars
7/18/03 R.W. Welch Jumbled but nicely acted conspiracy theory flick. Imaginative in spots. 3 stars
6/24/03 The Man Dream on 5 stars
5/10/03 Hans Geurts Deeply disturbing, but an excellent film 5 stars
2/13/03 Matthew C. Jones Too scary and intense for a real schizophrenic to handle, but remark 5 stars
10/23/02 Kain Lacroix A movie for the soul forged, not the weak of mind. Of you don't like it, go watch mtv. 5 stars
6/22/02 Kever One great movie. Watch the longer cut, it kicks even more ass. 5 stars
6/01/02 Johnny-oh what he said. Outstanding, creepy, and cerebral. 5 stars
5/30/02 Charles Tatum Adrian Lyne's best film 5 stars
4/22/02 dave tiring and tedious self indulgent clap-trap 1 stars
4/10/02 Cheese-Grater jesus, what a warped ass film..shakey weird effect like house on haunted hill...shit scary 5 stars
4/01/02 Katie G I thought the movie used good camera techniques such as the special effects. 3 stars
3/29/02 Monster W. Kung One of the best movies of the early 90s. 5 stars
2/08/02 derwyn wright the film was tha bomb, best of its time and still holds strong in the 2002 year 5 stars
12/31/01 daniboy what? 5 stars
11/15/01 ddthefly one of the most complex script and physical sensations 5 stars
9/12/01 Jessica Selwood Keeps you guessing till the very end. Holds you in suspence the whole time. 4 stars
7/20/01 MiS^DeMeAnOr all I can say is...."whoa..." 5 stars
7/15/01 Basil One of the most scary movies of all time. 5 stars
3/03/01 Neco I was literally petrified after seeing this film. Huge. 5 stars
3/02/01 josh campbell good show 4 stars
2/13/01 Jake I was amazed by the harrowing nature of this film. Costanza was even in it! 5 stars
2/07/01 Tim Gee Mind blowing. Flush your LSD, you can quit!! 5 stars
2/05/01 Your mom is on me trys to be to scary 2 stars
1/28/01 Soggy Bottom Boy One of the best films of the 90s, a classic mind-fuck movie... 5 stars
7/23/00 aitch no reviewer has yet plumbed the full biblical depths 5 stars
6/13/00 Chen Kenichi Excellent film. I *hate* horror/slasher flicks, too. 5 stars
6/12/00 happyhappyjoyjoy Just make sure you stop the film before the paragrpah at end. 5 stars
5/18/00 Creeper This is one of the freakiest damn movies I ever did see 4 stars
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  02-Nov-1990 (R)
  DVD: 14-Sep-2010



Directed by
  Adrian Lyne

Written by
  Bruce Joel Rubin

  Tim Robbins
  Elizabeth Peńa
  Danny Aiello
  Matt Craven
  Jason Alexander
  Ving Rhames

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