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Nightmare Fuel / Jacob's Ladder

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Time for your daily injection of Nightmare Fuel.

We could just say "This entire goddamn film," but we wouldn't be accurate. Let's instead elaborate on all of the creepy moments this movie has to offer, shall we?

  • Among (many) other things, the opening subway sequence manages to touch on pretty much every single irrational fear a lot of New Yorkers harbor about the transit system.
    • Jacob getting off at Bergen Street, only to find every exit locked up tight. The station has an extremely still silence as if the place has been closed to the public for years.
    • When Jacob is forced to walk through the subway tunnel on foot, he dives out of the way of an oncoming train filled with people staring out all of the windows. The facial details are vague as if Jacob is impaired by drugs (and indeed Jacob was drugged back in reality), and it is left open to interpretation where these people are being taken. Is this train an Afterlife Express? A member of the train staff at the end of the train seems to meaningfully wave at Jacob, and their facial features are also obscured.
  • On a more reality-based note, the prospect of being gravely wounded during the Vietnam War, in the middle of hostile territory, with only a medic tent between you and oblivion.
    • The shot of the soldier stumbling around with only a flap of skin holding his leg on. Squick.
  • The scene at the party where Jez is either dancing with or getting molested by some sort of black tentacle, which nobody else seems to notice.
    • Also in this same act, Jacob has his palm read for a fortune-telling, and the teller is brutally honest about Jacob's current state of affairs.
      "No, it's not funny. See, according to this, you're already dead..."
    • Even creepier are the extremely brief shots of some sort of wings and teeth you see throughout the scene.
    • When Jacob opens the fridge to grab a drink, there's a plastic-wrapped sandwich that looks like a lamb skull.
  • Jacob's ice bath. He has severe chills and feels frozen due to a fever above 106 degreesnote , but is forced to go naked into a bathtub filled with cold water and ice cubes.
    • If you're on board with the common interpretation that the entire movie is Jacob's Dying Dream after being gutted by drugged fellow servicemen in Vietnam, then the meaning of this scene is harrowing. Jacob is feeling the army medics stuff his damaged, dying and oh-so-cold guts back into his body while holding him down and reassuring him that he will be fine. Most organs within the chest cavity have an extremely low tolerance for temperature change compared to the extremities; a change of just a few degrees will cause them to begin to die. It's hard to imagine what this might feel like, but a horrific icy feeling throughout the body right down to one's core is not a bad guess.
    • The scene where Jacob seems to wake up for real, with his previous wife and his son being alive and well. It's like a sense of hope is being presented like maybe Jacob has finally waken up, but it might seem too good to be true. The coldness from Jacob's ice bath gets translated to "the window was left open" in this layer of the dream, giving a hint that Jacob is still dreaming. Indeed, Jacob can't stay in his relatively pleasant dream and has to wake back up into his New York City nightmare, creating a potential Tear Jerker.
    • The sequence after his subsequent dreams, in which Jez is chewing him out for not getting out of the apartment; after several shots where her face being split by the panels of a mirror manages to be unnerving, she yells in his face out of frustration; here, her eyes are black, and her teeth look considerably more threatening than before.
      • If you look closely at the mirror during this scene, youíll see that Jezebelís reflection isnít actually distorted by the glass, her face really is deformed in that shot.
  • The hospital sequence, in which Jacob is strapped to a gurney being wheeled through an increasingly more dilapidated hospital corridor, passing by discarded body parts and random headshaking demons.
    • When Jacob gets to his destination, all of the medical staff in the room are dead silent as he is restrained. The scene is relatively normal with nobody taking on a nightmarish appearance, and for some reason, Jez is one of the staff members helping out. Jacob wants to go home, but a staff member bluntly tells him, "This is your home. You're dead." A doctorish specter with no eyes or eye sockets (see page image) looms over him with a hypodermic syringe, and Jacob is helpless to escape as the specter goes to stab him with it. It's pretty much every hospital nightmare rolled into a single surreal sequence.
    • So petrifying was this sequence that it inspired the creation of the Dark World in the Silent Hill series.
  • There's also a scene where Jacob is hiding in a public toilet and a tissue is pushed through a glory hole at him, and "Dream on" is said again in the same way, but this was cut and can only be seen in the deleted scenes on the DVD.
    • "Dream on." is subtly terrifying in its actual use in the film; rather than recurring, it's used once when Jacob is in the depths of confusion and terror at what's going on, and clutching to the thinnest strand of happiness at the idea his wife still loves him. Like the beings trying to coax him to accept the idea he's dead, the voice is forcing him to face the truth.
  • If you've ever been scared by the Demonic Head Shake effect where a character's head twitches uncontrollably, this film has indirectly scared you. It pioneered the effect, and it's been used literally dozens of times since.
  • The nurse with two symmetrical bone growths on her head, which look rather like stumps of sawed-off horns.
  • If you've ever been subject to frightening hallucinations, you'll rarely see a film that captures their atmosphere better than this one. The worst part is the notion that your own mind and your senses are betraying you and cannot be trusted. Your senses are your only filter for the world, and if they go haywire you've literally got nothing.
  • The Deleted Scene in which Michael "cures" Jacob, and what seems to be the Final Boss attacks - if you get the parallel that this is a rapist trying to get at its helpless victim again, you're spot on.
  • The various expressions of Body Horror throughout the movie combine the unsettling paranoia that what you're seeing couldn't be real with the equally unsettling realization that it is real, but you're the only one who thinks it's anything out of the ordinary.