Jacob’s Ladder might feel trite and predictable by today’s standards. But this was the inspiration for many elements now considered standard in psychological horror.
Jacob’s Ladder Synopsis
US Vietnam War veteran Jacob Singer works as a postal clerk and lives in a seedy apartment with his girlfriend. Increasingly, he is tormented by strange hallucinations, one of which almost resulting in him being run down by a subway train. As Jacob’s visions worsens, he is contacted by a member of his old unit, and soon learns that others are also suffering the same experiences. On investigating, Jacob discovers that their hallucinations might be due to a traumatic event they went through while on deployment in 1971. The truth lies in what exactly happened after the village they were in came under enemy attack.
Jacob’s Ladder is a movie you must watch if you’re keen on genre movies in any way. It’s both lesson in filming technique and cinematic history. If you’re fond games like Silent Hill, you would also recognise many of the horror elements in it. This was the movie that popularised the head / body twitching effect. Till today, the same effect continues to be employed in movies, television series, and of course, games.
Conversely, Jacob’s Ladder is also a warning about the deadliest pitfall of psychological horror storytelling. Like so many of its successors, the plot quickly turns dawdling, and beyond the midpoint of the movie, you’d be groaning for the truth, rather than endure more of the protagonist’s suffering. This ultimately was redeemed by the movie’s twist ending, which I believe was considered creative in its day. Unfortunately, no thanks to movies like Fight Club, this wouldn’t work for today’s audience. Here’s a movie you should watch for visual impact, or for a history lesson. But it’s definitely not something to enjoy for good storytelling.
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