Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Movie Review: Jacob's Ladder

So it's that time of year to watch horror movies with the lights off and see how badly you can scare yourself. I first saw a mention of Jacob's Ladder in 100 Scariest Movie Moments -- or maybe it was its sequel... anyway, it looked really intriguing so I decided to check it out.

Quick synopsis: A traumatized (and possibly experimented on) Vietnam war veteran discovers that his post-war life isn't what he believes it to be when he starts seeing demons and flashbacks of his dead son.

*Warning* There will be spoilers.

This is one of those freaky psychological trips you take with the main character, not quite able to discern what is reality and what is a hallucination. Some of the images were great! And horrifying. Like in the beginning when Jacob is on the subway, and before he gets off, he sees a hobo with some sausage-link kind of appendage underneath a blanket. And you're thinking: WTF -- did I just see what I think I saw???
Then there was the scene when Jacob is crossing the subway tracks, a train rolls by, and up against the windows are these eyeless ghouls with gaping mouths.

The entire movie goes back forth between WTF and normalcy; these creepy moments popping out of nowhere, and then sinking back into the fabrics of reality. Is he dead? Is he just having one hell of a acid trip? Who knows!

Well, no. Turns out the director didn't want the viewer to keep on guessing -- which is unfortunate because I love open endings. I don't want closure; I want to wonder what happens next, to allow my imagination to run wild with gruesome thoughts of what could have happened, or what was really going on with poor Jacob.

A good reason not to piss off your girlfriend: she might be a demon!

But you're denied that with this film. In the end, we discover that *gasp* Jacob was dead all along and that the entire movie was his dying hallucination.  Does this sound oddly familiar to the cop out ending of the main character waking up and it turns out it was all just a dream?

For a movie this good, it deserved a better ending -- a significantly better ending. I mean where's the struggle if we know he's dead? I don't mind the MC struggling with the fact that he might be dead, he certainly did for a bit, but when it's confirmed that yeah, he is indeed dead, he just accepts it and, literally, walks up the stairway to heaven. That's not horror; that's cheesy! 

The whole being a guinea pig for experimental drugs/crazy-making-it-all-up angle wasn't played out to its full potential, in my opinion. It seemed like the movie was more intent on beating you over the head with the fact that he might be dead. Rather than letting us think that maybe he really *is* crazy.

But to end on a positive note, I thought the entire cast was amazing; the way they reacted made these WTF moments come alive and you were there with them.

So I'm going to give this 4 out of 5 hallucinogenic stars. A good psychological thriller with bits of gore splatter about, but ultimately could have been better.

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