Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Jacob's Ladder (1990)

There is a movie on this list that is a masterpiece. It's called Jacob's Ladder. This is the horror film I have been waiting for. It's not a slasher film where a crazy guy chases teenagers.  The horror is entirely inside the mind, and you can't escape your own mind. 

You need to be alone, on the couch, wrapped in a blanket in the dark cause that is the best way to watch it. The original story is about this dude named Jacob who has a dream about a ladder (in some versions it's a staircase) that stretches upward into heaven, with angels on the rungs/steps welcoming him. So I knew going into the movie it had to be a dream, meaning there would be several fantastic or unrealistic elements.  It's like Alice in Wonderland where lots of weird things happen but we already know it turns out to be a dream.

The movie is heavy with symbolism.  Jacob tells his girlfriend Jezzie about his children, and she tells them they have "weird names". He tells her that they are biblical names, and her name (Jezzie, short for Jezebel) is biblical too. Jacob is still mourning the death of his young son Gabe, who died before Jacob went to war. 

Jacob starts having weird dreams and hallucinations. He finds out that other members of his platoon have similar issues, and together they go to a lawyer.  This doesn't work, because according to the government, they were never in Vietnam at all. It is really hard to go up against the government.

His greatest ally is his chiropractor, Dr. Louis. If you didn't know, St. Louis is the patron saint of soldiers, sick people, and against the death of children. When Jacob is taken to the scary awful hospital full of deformed people and eyeless nurses, it's Dr. Louis who rescues him. I didn't particularly think the really fast head-shaking people were that scary though.

Jacob keeps trying to find answers to explain away his hallucinations, especially since the other members of his platoon are dying in car explosions and stuff.  He is approached by Michael who explains everything to him. Michael is a hippie chemist/angel who was forced to make psychological drugs for the U.S. Army, specifically one that would increase manic tendencies   Jacob's platoon was unknowingly administered this drug, went crazy, and tried to kill each other.  Jacob doesn't remember much about what happened that night, but he was told by the palm reader that he had already died.

Dr. Louis tells him,  "The only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won't let go of life, your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away. But they're not punishing you," he said. "They're freeing your soul. So, if you're frightened of dying and... you're holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. But if you've made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth." So he's spent the entire time being bombarded with these negative and frightening images, that he forgets to look at the positives in his life.  He takes a taxi home, to his real home where his children are and is surprised to see Gabe sitting on the stairway. Gabe takes his hand and leads him up the stairway where his nightmare finally ends.  Movie gets a 10/10.

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