Jacob's Ladder

USA, 1990, M, 115 mins. Director: Adrian Lyne. Stars: Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Penn, Danny Aiello.

Jacob's Ladder confused the critics and flopped at the box-office, but it has the potential to grow in reputation over the years: if any movie has the makings of a cult film, it's this one. Tim Robbins plays a man who begins seeing terrifying demons in the streets of New York; discovering their cause leads him on a shattering journey through his past.

Jacob's Ladder is, simply put, a highly convincing depiction of a nightmare (in the literal sense of the term). Its plot was not made confusing to turn off the critics; it was essential that it be confusing for it to work. And the plot-device used in the film's denouement, while certainly familiar (and as a result a target for detractors), is used here in a way which makes sense of the entire film (rather than the nonsense it has made of many).

Scripted by the writer of Ghost, this is a dark and incredibly creepy film; although M-rated it boasts more moments of real horror than many slash-and-gore R-raters. Danny Aiello's bit-part as a friendly chiropractor lightens the load, and Home Alone munchkin Macaulay Culkin smiles a lot in cameos as Jacob's son; but don't watch this if you're looking for a whole heap o' fun. It's compelling cinema, but it's grim.


First published in a reviews booklet of the ANU Film Group.
This page: 31 January 2000; last modified 16 February 2001.

©1993, 2000 Rory Ewins