Jacob’s Ladder might feel trite and predictable by today’s standards. But this was the inspiration for many elements now considered standard in psychological horror.
Jacob’s Ladder Synopsis
US Vietnam War veteran Jacob Singer works as a postal clerk and lives in a seedy apartment with his girlfriend. Increasingly, he is tormented by strange hallucinations, one of which results in him almost run down by a subway train. As Jacob’s visions worsen, he is contacted by a member of his old military unit and told that many of his former comrades are also suffering from similar visions. On investigation, Jacob discovers that their hallucinations might be due to a traumatic event they all went through while on deployment in 1971. The truth lies in what happened after the village they were entrenched in came under enemy attack.
Jacob’s Ladder is a 90s horror masterpiece that you must watch if you’re keen on horror movies in any way. Especially so, if you’re looking for a tutorial in genre filming techniques.
If you’re fond of survival horror games like Silent Hill, you will also recognise many of the horror effects utilised. Simply put, this was the movie that popularised the insane head/body twitching effect. Till today, the same effect continues to be employed in movies, television series, and of course, video games.
Conversely, Jacob’s Ladder is also a warning about the deadliest pitfall of psychological horror storytelling. Like so many of its successors, the plot quickly turns dawdling, and beyond the midpoint of the show, you’d be groaning for the truth and begging to be spared more of the protagonist’s suffering.
This ultimately was redeemed by the movie’s twist ending, which I believe was considered creative in its day. Unfortunately, no thanks to movies like Fight Club, today’s audience would likely find the conclusion trite.
Here’s a movie you should thus watch for visual impact, or for a film studies lesson. But it’s definitely not something to enjoy for impressive storytelling.
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