While there are many allusions to the biblical passage of Jacob witnessing the connection between heaven and earth in his dreams, the 1990 film is about a pre-Shawshank Tim Robbins playing a Vietnam war vet who experiences bizarre hallucinations that become more and more real. The titular Ladder being a form of salvation for Jacob as he tries to understand his the life in his past and even the present.
Jacob’s Ladder is a film that attempts the psychological horror approach of Kubrick’s The Shining, where the true horror is what isn’t being explicitly told, where you hold the shot on a subject for too long or not long enough. Where the implications of characters actions or a distant past are far more horrifying than some spooky entity.
The film came into my radar from playing the Japanese Silent Hill video games, where Jacob’s Ladder was cited as an inspiration. You can see that, from the way that horror manifests into twitching, faceless monstrosities, obscured creature effects and the warped physical appearances of people, like Jacob’s girlfriend Jezebel. Even places become possessed, like in the beginning where Jacob is locked in the New York Subway, an experience that screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost) had that was the basis for the script. Or the hospital with conspicuously empty wheelchairs, that spirals deeper into what feels like Dante’s Inferno.
I feel modern horror especially more recent films are taking inspiration from Jacob’s Ladder as well, going for a slower, more atmospheric approach to horror. Jacob’s Ladder left a worthy legacy, I wholeheartedly recommend.