[[quoteright:300:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/jacobs-ladder-1990-poster.jpg]]

->''"[-Dream on.-]"''

''Jacob's Ladder'' (1990) is a psychological {{thriller}} / {{horror}} film directed by Adrian Lyne, based on a screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin. It stars Creator/TimRobbins, Elizabeth Peña, Danny Aiello, and Creator/JasonAlexander. Actor Macaulay Culkin appears briefly in an uncredited performance.

Jacob Singer isn't sure what's real anymore.

The nightmares he keeps having are tearing his life apart, one day at a time. They might be after-effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from his term of military service in Vietnam. They might be the side-effects from a secret and illegal drug trial that he and his platoon were unknowingly exposed to. Or they may be a result of his own mind slipping into insanity from the trauma of his young son's death.

But there is one possibility that terrifies him, even though day by day it seems more and more likely. The demons and monsters he keeps seeing -- out of the corner of his eye, hiding in the shadows, lurking in his darkest nightmares -- might be real. And if they are, then they're coming for him -- and there's nothing he can do about it...

This movie was one of the primary inspirations for the ''Franchise/SilentHill'' franchise.

A remake is scheduled for 2018, helmed by ''The Perfect Guy'' director David M. Rosenthal.

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!!''Jacobs Ladder'' contains examples of:

* AngelUnaware: [[spoiler:Jacob's chiropractor Louie is implied to be an angel trying to save him.]]
-->[[spoiler:'''Jacob:''' You know you look like an angel? Like an overgrown cherub.]]
* AngelsDevilsAndSquid: A variant where [[spoiler:the angels, the demons, and the squid are ''all'' the same]].
** The "squid" factor was [[ArtisticLicenseTraditionalChristianity added]] by director Adrian Lyne in the rewrite of Bruce Joel Rubin's initial script, which was [[AsTheGoodBookSays much more Biblical]] in its angel-/demonology. However, a DeletedScene shows [[ObscuredSpecialEffects just a quick peek]] at one of Rubin's intended beasts.
* AbandonedHospital: Many of the creepier hospital scenes take place in one of these.
* AdultFear: Plenty. [[spoiler: Gabe's death, being trapped in a subway, friends dying one by one, becoming an UnPerson, being taken hostage in broad daylight with witnesses pretending they don't see you, and so on.]]
* AnArmAndALeg: One poor soldier in the opening has his leg hanging and flapping around, only a flap of skin keeping it on.
* ArcWords: The song "Sonny Boy," as recorded by singer Al Jolson. Interestingly, the song's final verse clarifies that, much like Jacob, the narrator [[spoiler: is grieving the death of his son:]]
---> [[spoiler:And the angels grew lonely / Took you because they were lonely / I'm lonely, too, sonny boy]]
** [[spoiler:"If you're frightened of dying, and you're holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. If you've made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the Earth."]]
* AnachronismStew: Jacob believes himself to be living in 1975. The taxi that takes him to his old residence has registration set to expire in 1972, as well as a "[[UsefulNotes/RichardNixon Nixon Now]]" pin that only appeared in '76. An [[TomeOfEldritchLore occult book]] Jacob examines, ''A Witch's Bible, Volume 1'', was not published until 1984.
* ArtisticLicenseChemistry: The end of the film claims that BZ (3-Quinuclidinyl benzilate) was tested on U.S. troops during the Vietnam war. While BZ is a hallucinogen, it doesn't cause the subject to become insane with bloodlust. It's an incapacitating agent, causing mostly stupor and confusion. The strangest the side effects get is disrobing and grasping at imaginary objects. (It is likely, however, that the BZ snippet is [[spoiler:merely a continuation of a RedHerring to [[OrWasItADream keep the audience guessing]] at the film's true meaning. See {{Mockspiracy}}]].) It's irrelevent anyway, since Michael states he was hired to create something ''worse'' that went "right to the primal fear, the base anger," strongly implying that they took BZ and turned it into The Ladder.
* AuthorAppeal: A film about mortality and the afterlife? It's not a shock that it was written by Bruce Joel Rubin (''Film/{{Brainstorm}}'', ''Film/{{Ghost}}''.)
* BadSanta: Played straight and PlayedForLaughs, at the same time. ([[SignificantAnagram A subtle one, but it's noteworthy that "Santa" is an anagram for "Satan".]])
* BittersweetEnding: [[spoiler:Jacob has been DeadAllAlong, but, after finally accepting his death, he is able to ascend to Heaven with his son.]]
* BodyHorror: The demons[[spoiler:/angels]], according to Adrian Lyne, were made to resemble thalidomide victims and other birth defects. These may include a lack of eyes, fleshy, veiny tails, and so on.
* BrokenMasquerade: [[spoiler:The Artificial Realm variant.]]
* BrutalHonesty: [[spoiler:The demons/angels. They even outright ''tell him he's dead and to accept it'' in a ToughLove way.]]
* CassandraTruth: When asked who mugged him, Jacob blurts angrily, "Santa!... gonna get the bastard!" The doctor and nurse look at each other like Jacob's either high on drugs or ''really'' in shock.
* DarkIsNotEvil / GoodAllAlong: The horrid monstrosities and abominations? [[spoiler:They're angels, trying to make Jacob accept his death and ascend to Heaven.]]
* DarkWorld: Jacob keeps slipping back and forth between his everyday life and a darker realm inhabited by demons[[spoiler:/angels]].
* DaylightHorror: Several scenes are very well-lit, including parts of the hospital sequence.
* [[spoiler:DeadAllAlong]]
%%* DeadToBeginWith
* DecapitationPresentation: [[spoiler: In a scene that was shot but cut (and as of yet unreleased), Michael's head is found in his laboratory. Michael was one of the many WhatHappenedToTheMouse aspects of the film.]]
* DoesThisRemindYouOfAnything: After Louis cures Jacob of a slipped disc, the scene is reminiscent of a baby learning to walk. [[spoiler: Which is deliberate as Jacob's beginning to be reborn - in preparation for his death.]]
* [[spoiler: DyingDream: At the end, Jacob discovers that he never made it out of Vietnam. His nightmares were partly caused by the psychedelic drug he was given by the government.]]
* EverybodyKnewAlready: [[spoiler:The Bad Doctor]] actually ''spoils the entire movie'', if you take what he's saying at face value.
-->[[spoiler:'''Jacob:''' Get me out of here.]]
-->[[spoiler:'''Evil Doctor:''' Where do you want to go?]]
-->[[spoiler:'''Jacob:''' Home.]]
-->[[spoiler:'''Evil Doctor:''' Home? This is your home. You're dead.]]
-->[[spoiler:'''Jacob:''' Dead? No. I just hurt my back, I'm not dead.]]
-->[[spoiler:'''Evil Doctor:''' What are you, then?]]
-->[[spoiler:'''Jacob:''' I'm '''''alive'''''.]]
-->[[spoiler:'''Evil Doctor:''' Then what are you doing ''here''?]]
-->[[spoiler:'''Jacob:''' I don't know. This isn't happening.]]
-->[[spoiler:'''Evil Doctor:''' What ''is'' happening?]]
-->[[spoiler:'''Jacob:''' Get me out of here.]]
-->[[spoiler:'''Evil Doctor:''' ''(sighing with frustration)'' There is no "out of here". You've been killed, don't you remember?]]
** Earlier in the film, he gets the same thing from the woman reading his palm.
--->'''Palmreader:''' [[spoiler:It's not funny. According to this, you're already dead! Get outta here baby!]]
** Louis himself states, "[[spoiler:If you're frightened of dying, and you're holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. If you've made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the Earth.]]"
* EvilIsVisceral: During the hospital gurney scene, many organs are shown lying on the floor, some of which get run over by the gurney. The director said that he wanted to use distortion of the flesh to make the film more frightening and harder to deny.
* EyelessFace: Many of the creatures haunting Jacob have no eyes.
* FanDisservice: Elizabeth Peña dancing suggestively while sweating? Hot. Elizabeth Peña dancing suggestively while sweating whilst [[spoiler: being molested and then impaled by some sort of demon/angel?]] Not so much.
* TheFerryman: The dream itself could be considered this. Particularly, a dime [[spoiler:Jacob bends down to pick up was drawn to Paul Gruneger's car before it exploded]]. In ancient Greco-Roman [[DueToTheDead burial practices]], a coin was placed on or in the mouth of the deceased, to pay the [[TropeNamer trope namer]] Charon the fare for rowing the departed soul across the river to Tartarus, [[TheUnderworld the land of the dead]].
* FlashForward: [[spoiler:Jacob projects himself into the early 80s, while dying in Vietnam in the early 70s.]]
* {{Foreshadowing}}: All of the ads in the subway are [[FridgeBrilliance anti-drug ads]], including one that says being on drugs is like Hell. Think about it.
* FreezeFrameBonus: Plenty. Like when Jezzie transforms briefly into something with [[BlackEyesOfEvil black eyes]] and a gummed mouth with tiny teeth.
* GoodIsNotNice: [[spoiler:Louis cryptically tells Jacob early in the film that the nightmare creatures he's seeing are just trying to help him let go of his life and prepare himself for heaven]].
* GovernmentConspiracy: One of the plot threads involves a mysterious drug. At one point, Jacob finds out his entire war record has been erased, and all the people who knew him are being killed off one by one. Jacob is approached by a man claiming to be a military chemist who says that Jacob's unit was experimented on with a hallucinogen that caused them all to go insane and kill each other. The final card informs that BZ had been used on American troops during the Vietnam War.
* [[spoiler:TheHeroDies]]: [[spoiler:Jacob himself, before the post-war events of which the majority of the film consists.]]
* HolyHalo: When Jacob looks up at Louis and sees his head set aglow by the lamp above him, he notes that Louis looks just like an angel. [[spoiler:This, and a lot of what Louis says in this scene, foreshadows that Louis ''is'' an angel]].
* HospitalGurneyScene: [[FromBadToWorse It gets worse]].
* ImpaledWithExtremePrejudice:
** In the opening scene, Jacob gets bayoneted in the gut, badly.
** Jezebel in a vision of Jacob's during her sex dance scene.
* IronicHell: One of several explanations for what the hell is going on in this movie.
* ItAlwaysRainsAtFunerals
* JumpScare: Only two.
** One during Jezzie's "dance with the devil" [[spoiler: when the impossibly wide horn inexplicably sprouts from her mouth.]]
** [[spoiler:When Jacob sees Gabe in the mirror, he pushes it to catch more of a glimpse of him. A demon/angel pops out, {{Undercrank}}ed, as if to say, "No. You're ''not'' ready.".]]
* MeaningfulName: The main characters have Biblical names which describe them: Jacob, Jezebel, Gabriel, Elijah, Jedediah, Michael and so on. {{Lampshaded}} by Jacob and Jezzie.
-->'''Jezebel:''' I never went for church names.
-->'''Jacob:''' Where do you think ''Jezebel'' came from?!
** Also {{Lampshaded}} by a government mook: "Mr. Singer. What an appropriate name for a man who can't keep his mouth shut."
* MindScrew: The whole thing, really.
* {{Mockspiracy}}: Jacob believes that he's being pursued by government agents who want to suppress the truth about the use of psychedelic drugs during the war. [[spoiler:The drug story may or may not be true, but the conspiracy itself is just a Dying Dream of the protagonist who never actually made it out of Vietnam. His brain being on a psychedelic while dying might explain the idea is DyingDream is akin to a bad trip -- because it ''is'' a bad trip.]]
* MsFanservice: Jezzie, who spends a lot of time topless.
* MundaneHorror: The movie is a master of "Uh, did I just see that?" moments. A nurse with a bone sticking out of her head, a creepy-looking sandwich in a fridge at a party, blood in a sink in a public toilet, etc.
* NiceGuy: Nothing you can say will get a rise out of Jacob. He just laughs, though he'll genially toss a barb back at you, with no malice. WordOfGod says that it's deliberate, so that all the horrible stuff that he goes through is that much worse.
* NightmareFace: Many of Jacob's visions manifest in this way.
* NothingIsScarier: See SinisterSubway, below.
** Not scary, but chills when Jacob finally returns home - his ''old'' home - and [[spoiler:he finds homework and food on the dining room table - books open, pie half-eaten, as if they were there and had just vanished. Of course, that's exactly what ''had'' happened - he's letting go and his past is vanishing.]]
** Michael recounting what The Ladder did to chimps -- then P.O.W.'s.
--->'''Michael:''' We did experiments on jungle monkeys. They bashed each other's heads in, gouged out their eyes, chewed off their tails. The brass loved it. Then they made us try it on Charlie. ''(shaken)'' They took these POW's, just kids, really, and put 'em in a courtyard. We fed 'em huge doses of the stuff. ''[[ManlyTears (tears rolls down a cheek)]]'' They were '''''worse''''' than the monkeys. I never knew men could '''''do''''' such things.
* PapaWolf: Louis behaves like this when he rescues Jacob from the hospital. "Step closer and I'll wrap this (a gurney stand) around your neck!"
* PeacefulInDeath: Invoked almost verbatim [[spoiler: by the triage doctor, who comments Jacob "looks kinda peaceful" after he dies.]]
* RailroadTracksOfDoom: Played horrifyingly straight.
* TheReveal: [[spoiler:Aside from the DyingDream: "You killed each other." Jacob got bayoneted by a fresh-faced ''American'' soldier (vets or military buffs probably figured it out much earlier, as the bayonet we see him stabbed with was an M7, the U.S. government issue in Vietnam).]]
* RedHerring: [[spoiler:The GovernmentConspiracy, to a degree.]]
* SatanIsGood: While [[spoiler: Louis, the angel]] and the demons[[spoiler:/angels]] don't seem to like each other very much, it's implied that they're basically playing for the same team. [[spoiler: They both want Jacob to accept his death, with the demons/angels using the stick, and Louis using the carrot.]]
* SchrodingersButterfly: This is the entire premise of the film. The main character keeps bouncing back and forth between three realities[[note]]Jacob in Vietnam, Jacob before Vietnam, Jacob after Vietnam[[/note]], each of which shares some people and places in common, but both of which seem to have demons[[spoiler:/angels]] in them as well. [[spoiler:It's finally shown that he had died in Vietnam, and this was all just an in-your-head Purgatory.]]
* ShellShockedVeteran: This is what Jacob is implied to be [[spoiler:at first.]]
* ShirtlessScene: Jacob and Jezebel both have a lot of them.
* ShoutOut: The artist Francis Bacon, whom the SurrealHorror is based on.
** The book, ''Literature/TheStranger'' appears twice over the course the movie. Though at first, it seems the book is only here to show that Jacob is studiying philosophy, the course of the movie reveal that both works have a similar theme as [[spoiler: the endings of both works deal with the protagonists learning to let go of their life and hope and make peace with their deaths]].
* SinisterSubway: An early scene has Jacob getting lost in a New York subway station. It's almost unbearably dark and creepy, he encounters demons[[spoiler:/angels]] there, and the train tries to kill him.
* StairwayToHeaven: In the end of the film [[spoiler:Jacob is seen walking up stairs into a bright white light with his dead son, we can only assume after he accepts that he's dead he's going to Heaven]].
* SurrealHorror: Inspired by the works of [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Bacon_%28artist%29 Francis Bacon]], according to WordOfGod.
** "[[http://www.artnet.com/artists/joel-peter-witkin/man-with-no-legs-bV7xPf32DS8kIRwAxBFWpg2 Man With No Legs (1976)]]" by Joel-Peter Witkin.
%% * ThroughTheEyesOfMadness
* TomatoInTheMirror: [[spoiler:In the DeletedScene, Jezzie turns out to be Jacob himself. She was a WhatHappenedToTheMouse in the theatrical cut.]]
* TooSoon: [[invoked]] Jed gets a DopeSlap by his mom Sarah when he comments, "Just hang in there, Dad!" (Jacob's legs are suspended in the hospital bed to immobilize his bad back.)
* ToughLove: [[spoiler:If you subscribe to "really angels freeing you from the earth" sentiment, it has to be the toughest love ever seen on the silver screen.]]
* {{Undercrank}}: Used on all the [[spoiler:demons/angels]]. This film pioneered the use of this effect in horror movies.
* WarIsHell: The opening battle in Vietnam is ''brutal'' -- and that's not even considering that the war influenced the US military to experiment on young [=POWs=], as detailed in Nothing Is Scarier above.
* WiseBeyondTheirYears: [[spoiler:Post-mortal Gabe. Intended as such according to WordOfGod, who said Gabe would guide Jacob. Of course, considering who Gabriel is ''named'' after...]]
* YouHaveToBelieveMe: Upon admittance to the hospital, a disoriented Jacob tells the doctor that [[BadSanta Santa Claus]] [[FiveFingerDiscount stole his wallet]] with his dead son's only picture in it. It's perhaps [[{{Irony}} ironic]], given the themes of [[spoiler:[[PsychologicalTormentZone epiphanic purgatory]] and [[ItsAllJunk letting one's past attachments go]]]], that the Santa is question was a ''[[AngelUnaware Salvation]]'' [[AngelUnaware Army]] bellringer -- and [[SignificantAnagram "Santa" is an anagram for "Satan"]].
* YourOtherLeft: Louis every time he tells Jacob to turn on his side while lying on the chiropractic bed.
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