Jacob’s Ladder was originally a 1990 psychological thriller film that revolves around a Vietnam veteran whose experiences prior to and during the war result in strange, fragmentary visions and bizarre hallucinations that continue to haunt him. It wouldn’t be surprise if someone wanted to remake the film, but it really wasn’t much of a movie. Even the original hit number one spot for a weekend but only ever made it $26,118,851 for its overall domestic box office. But it obviously has become something of a “cult” movie. Being a film revolving around the psychological side, there’s a lot of trippy imagery and flashing hallucinations that come out of nowhere that really gives you that decade old thriller vibe.
This is exactly why we were all looking for a classic remake like “The Evil Dead”, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, and “The Ring”. With amazing creators like James Wan or Sam Raimi, this film would have been an absolute terror ride, but I don’t think it happened to be like that. The new version of the movie however, is one of those low budget indie films that doesn’t really give us the right chills for something as ambitious as a psychological thriller. It would have been adequate for a drama but nothing comes close to a film like “Jacob’s Ladder”.
It tries to bring us the visions of Jacob Singer (Michael Ealy), who is a trauma surgeon at the Atlanta VA hospital. The visual effects aren’t bad with bringing back phantoms on the subway, creepy vibrating heads, or worms in his wife’s skin, but they just didn’t quite feel like what the previous film had achieved. It didn’t really feel like a crawl-under-your-skin mind-rollercoaster kind of psychological film.
Although, somehow it could still come off as a good portrayal of what insanity feels like. The way Jacob gets hints that his brother who died in war is still alive and somehow miraculously finds him in the subway. Jacob basically is the brother with a “perfect” life, working as a doctor, happily married with a beautiful child, whereas Isaac is the one that’s haunted from the war. Apparently, he was given a drug from the government that’s supposed to help with post-traumatic stress, but has somehow made his situation worse. This is where it introduces us to somehow of a conspiracy towards the government, which is kind of what the original film was going for.
The new version is actually going for a trippier kind of ride. Not the fact that Jacob is seeing illusions but that his whole life may be one. Michael Ealy did do a good portrayal of this manic existential crisis but it wasn’t enough to save the film. In the end, maybe they shouldn’t have remade the movie at all or if they did, they could probably kick the chills up a notch and tie up the loose ends on the story.