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JACOB'S LADDER (1990) Dir. Adrian Lyne. Written by Bruce Joel Rubin. Starring: Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Pena, Danny Aiello, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Ving Rhames, Matt Craven, Jason Alexander, Eriq La Salle, and Macaulay Culkin.

 

The most frightening thing about Jacob Singer's nightmare is that he isn't dreaming.

Jacob's Ladder is a bit of an anomaly in Adrian Lyne's career. The director of such films as Flashdance,  9 1/2 Weeks, Fatal Attraction, Indecent Proposal, Lolita, and Unfaithful wouldn't necessarily be your first or tenth choice for the kind of material on display here and he certainly wouldn't be a director you would expect to knock the finest psychological horror film of the 90's out of the park with nary a misstep. Yet, here we are nearly 30 years after it first debuted on screens and I still can't shake its power. The story of Jacob Singer's journey from wounded Vietnam Vet to a seventies-era mailman seeing some awfully weird shit is a bit of a Rorschach test when it comes to what it all means, with opinions veering from a bad LSD trip to an illustration of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, but without spoiling anything for the uninitiated I can only say listen to Danny Aiello and not Matt Craven's chemist - things will make a lot more sense. Working from a script by Bruce Joel Rubin, (Ghost, The Last Mimsy) another creative you wouldn't expect this level of terror from, Lyne puts onscreen not just one or two totally unique and horrifying images, but a movie littered with them as well as great performances by Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Pena, Pruitt-Taylor Vince, Matt Craven, and Danny Aiello. From an Effects standpoint, the only names from the crew I recognize are Gordon J. Smith (Near Dark, Body Parts, Natural Born Killers) and Bill Sturgeon who has handled effects on a lot of the unsung films in this column (Strange Invaders, The Blob '88, Graveyard Shift, Cast a Deadly Spell, Full Eclipse ) but no matter because Gordon, Sturgeon and crew produced one for the record books with Jacob's Ladder if for no other reason than giving us the very first and best super-fast twitch monster used so egregiously over the years in far-less films. 

 

Rewatching the film now, I was prepared for signs of a dated experience and can proudly say there are none. Jacob's Ladder holds up to the winds of time and at this point, I think we can declare it an all-time masterpiece of not just horror cinema, but cinema proper. So, if you still haven't seen it, take a trip down the ladder with Jacob and see what the hell you've been missing. 

 

 

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