Jacob's Ladder

1990, Movie, R, 115 mins


Director Adrian Lyne followed his trashy smash FATAL ATTRACTION with this arresting oddity, an arty, terrifying psychological thriller. Scripted by Bruce Joel Rubin (GHOST) and produced at a cost of $40 million, the film failed at the box office, probably due to a twist ending that almost everyone perceived as a cop-out.

JACOB'S LADDER stars Tim Robbins as Jacob, a divorced Vietnam veteran who lives in New York with his girlfriend Jezzie (a smoldering Elizabeth Pena) and works as a mailman. Jacob is haunted by painful memories of his dead son (a mysteriously unbilled Macaulay Culkin, star of 1990's monster hit HOME ALONE) and of his Vietnam experience when he was nearly killed by a soldier with a bayonet. As the film progresses, Jacob also begins to see weird creatures and startling visions. Suddenly, there are monsters roaming through the streets of New York; closed subway stations take on a creepy life of their own; a crowded party turns into a room full of winged demons; a train full of strangers look as though they have sprouted tails and horns. Are these the visions of a madman or have demons actually come to get Jacob Singer? While trying desperately to cling to his sanity, Jacob enlists the help of his ex-wife (Patricia Kalember), a mysterious stranger (Matt Craven), and an angelic chiropractor (Danny Aiello) to help solve the mystery.

The much-touted screenplay for JACOB'S LADDER circulated in Hollywood for almost a decade, and in a 1983 American Film article, Rubin's screenplay was listed among the ten best unproduced scripts. (In our view, Lyne improved on the screenplay by heightening its ambiguities and jettisoning much fabular preachiness.) Truly frightening and visually unique, this messy, challenging film is anchored by Tim Robbins' remarkable performance. leave a comment

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