‘Jacob’s Ladder’ is quite a commercial but none the less chilling film which focuses on the psychological effects of war on the ‘Nam veteran ‘Jacob’.
The film opens with Jacob and his platoon resting between battles in the jungles of Vietnam. After a short respite the platoon come under attack, some of the soldiers remain alert but others, including Jacob begin to suffer seizures. Once back in the US, after the war has finished, Jacob, still having trouble integrating back into normal life, begins to suffer from disturbing hallucinations and other associated symptoms. As the plot develops Jacob begins to suspect that the government maybe involved but he has trouble differentiating paranoid delusions and reality.
Now the first thing you notice about Jacob’s Ladder is that it is quite a slow moving film, one of those ones where looking back nothing really happens, however the attention is in the detail and a combination of good script, really cool ‘trippy’ sequences and the occasional war scene help to break up the film so that the pace actually flows quite quickly. The majority of the film is set in the US, normal life, normal scenarios, as we follow Jacob trying to get jobs, keep a relationship going and simply socially adjusting. One thing which is noticeable throughout is that whilst the film doesn’t really generate any creepy atmosphere via eerie music, creeping around or dark sets, the whole film just has a very uneasy edge. Little things about Jacob’s character mean he never really fits in, despite being a normal, educated individual.
The occasional war scenes are pretty cool but anybody looking for a war movie really needn’t watch, there’s nothing particularly intense (nothing like in platoon) however the mixture of enactment and stock footage does at least make it look reasonably authentic.
The most unique elements of the film are the surreal mental episodes which Jacob suffers. We are not told why he is suffering until the big twist at the end but basically as the film progresses they get more and more intense. Now, don’t think anything gory, but stuff like demon faces and weird body movements are about all we get; quite frankly I was hoping for a bit more. That said it does keep a more realistic consistency going, and it is a little more in keeping with the rest of the film. The episodes are more surreal than actually scary, but as with everything else in the film they do make you feel a little on edge and keep things interesting.
Overall Jacob’s ladder is one of those films which I recommend that you at least give a try. It’s not outstanding and there are many ways which it could have been made more scary or intense, but it is a very strong film throughout. The twist at the end is pretty cool too. So, as it is available pretty much anywhere, cost me about £2 I don’t think there is any excuse not to watch it!