Thoughts on The Raw, Visceral, and Memorable Film–Jacob’s Ladder

The Paperback Writer’s Thoughts on The Raw, Visceral and Memorable Film–Jacob’s Ladder



Note: I do not own these photos and am not using them for promotional purposes. They are property of Tristar Pictures.


Jacob’s Ladder is one of those very famous movies that not everyone has seen and rarely talks about. Perhaps it is this way for me because most of the people I know are fairly young or not into the horror genre. This film is an important one because it is not another “Halloween,” “Nightmare on Elm Street,” or “Scream” type of scary movie. It feels very real, espescially for anyone who has been through the scary underworld of the subway system, or has even been to New York City during the eighties.The movie opens into a scene from Vietnam which I am not very familiar with, and then cuts to the next scene which I happen to relate to. It is in the wee hours of the morning that Jacob Singer falls asleep on a dark and dingy subway on the way home from a double shift for the post office. He is very tall, good looking in an owlish sort of way but looks a bit off. I noticed that he wakes up with a book in his hand, but I cannot make out the title.

There is no smoke present in the subway but yet everything seems dirty and smoky, as if the living nightmare has already started. It has. After getting out of the subway at the wrong stop, Jacob nearly gets run over by a train trying to get to his correct destination. The train passes over him and he sees ghoulish faces in the windows of the subway as it passes him. He passes old advertisements throughout the subway as he searches for a way out, and when he finds it–it is blocked off.

The more you observe Jacob in his everyday life the more disturbing it becomes and the more “creatures” he sees. He is a very sad man in his thirties who lives with his bitchy girlfriend who seems to not care very much about him for whatever reason. Presumably they met at the post office because they both work there. The two of them live together in a small apartment that is about as dingy and dark as the subway cars themselves.


Jacob’s life has gone very badly up to this point. He spent two years in Vietnam, his youngest son died, he got divorced, and he has a Phd but works at the post office. Obviously he is under a great deal of emotional strain, and strikes me as the type of very depressed person who just wants to survive and get by. Having a history of depression myself, I can understand. To make his existence in life worse, he starts to see disturbing things. A nurse at the doctor’s office has bloody pieces of skull sticking out of the back of her head, an out of control car persistently follows him with oddities inside that would make anyone’s skin crawl. This man really has no  one. His girlfriend Jezze seems to care at times, but makes it clear that he is becoming too much of a bother for her to deal with. The reason for her behavior should have been more clear, all we know about her is that she works at the post office. He walks through New York City like an injured zombie, at times too sick to leave his depressing apartment. At one point in the film, he bands with old friends from Vietnam to help him but they back out. Something or someone has gotten to them, because they are afraid.

They are seeing the monstrosities that he is, and most are living the nightmare. The government has covered up Singer’s ever being in Vietnam.


I won’t spoil the rest of the movie, but I assure you that it is terrifying and entrancing. The pale world of Jacob Singer and the horror he is surrounded with is unforgettable and depressing. It is a hard movie to watch, but I have enjoyed doing so every time because of the acting, filming, and very realness of it. If you have ever walked through the shadows of New York City, or have been through the subway system in the middle of the night you may feel at one with Jacob’s world–even for a moment. I will advise that people who are sensitive or prone to mental illness may not want to watch this movie because it is intense and hard to handle. This movie scares me, because the world sometimes looked dark and smoky to me when I was very young. Ironically, I was born in 1989 and the film came out about a year later in 1990.

If you don’t see any other scary movie this Halloween, see this one.


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