Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Movie #305: Jacob's Ladder

Jacob's Ladder is a horror/psychodrama directing by Adrian Lynn and starring Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Pena, and Danny Aiello. I'm hard pressed to explain why I own it.

Well, that's not entirely true. There was a video store in Toledo called Video Connection (see, folks younger than 30, it used to be that you couldn't download or stream movies and there was no Netflix, so you went to a store to rent video cassettes). They'd mark their surplus movies down to $5, and I'd buy a couple at a time, sometimes sight unseen, because, like, fuck it?

So I bought a lot of movies that I otherwise wouldn't have, and Jacob's Ladder seems to have been among them.

Anyway, the movie opens in Viet Nam, with Jacob "The Professor" Singer (Robbins) being all soldiery. Then things go crazy and he...wakes up a few years later in New York, living with a woman named Jezebel (Pena), but divorced from Sarah (Patricia Kalember) following the death of his young son Gabe (Maculay Culkin). He's seeing things - demons, faceless men, plain old weirdness - and starts unraveling a conspiracy that leads him to believe that the weed the soldiers in his unit was laced with a psychoactive chemical to make them all crazy-killer, and they slaughtered each other.

But no - really, he's back in Nam. He's been stabbed in the stomach, and is dying, and the movie ends with him (in his visions) accepting that his life is over and following Gabe upstairs, presumably to the afterlife.

Taken at face value, the movie seems jumbled. But taken as a whole and with attention to the role of Louis (Aiello) as the angelic chiropractor, who explains that the demons tearing Jacob's life apart are really just trying to help him let go of mortal existence, then the movie makes a lot more sense - it's the last moments of a dying man clinging to life so fervently that he makes up a future life, rather than just reliving a past one.

So that's kind of cool, actually, and it makes the movie improve on a second viewing because the viewer, like Jacob, can let go of the details and focus on the bigger message, which is, apparently, if you're dying of a stab wound in the jungle, fighting the inevitable only makes it more painful.

My Grade: B+
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: Jason X