I keep asking myself why. Why Jacobs Ladder, 2019?
Why I watched it? Well, that’s the easy one: grim, determined curiosity. I’ve been a huge fan of Adrian Lyne’s original 1990 film ever since I first saw it at the cinema. Sure, its got its detractors, but I always found it a fascinating, disturbing, wholly satisfying horror film complete with its own internal logic and a… I hesitate to term it a ‘philosophy’, but it does. Its a horror story/fable about letting go, about dying, about the human experience of life and death. It makes sense. Nothing makes sense about this remake, reboot, whatever they call it. It doesn’t sense why they made it, what they thought it could offer new, and it doesn’t make sense as a movie. Its a mess, an utterly terrible mess.
Not that I ever expected anything different, this film had ‘disaster’ written all over it from the start. I first heard about it several years ago, then all went quiet, and after I’d assumed it had gotten mercifully canned prior to getting made, I learned it had indeed been made but had been pretty much shelved by the studio, so bad it couldn’t be released. Well, they had that right. It should have stayed on that shelf.
But it seems they couldn’t resist getting it out there and trying to make some money out of it.
So what does this 2019 version have to offer? Well, predictably enough, this version replaces Vietnam with the Gulf War, as is the wont of such contemporary updates, and replaces the originals disturbing visions with horrible, noisily-edited jump-scares and CGI nonsense. Surprisingly while it replicates much of the plot from the original, even actual sequences/imagery (the ice-bath scene, winged demon/angel imagery during a sex scene) it fails to follow the internal logic of the original, its almost grace-like philosophy. It makes no sense at all and while the original was a relentless plunge into darkness and paranoia, eventually achieving some kind of sense through revelation at the end, this film just becomes increasingly confusing and nonsensical and just ends with the cinematic equivalent of a thud.
Seriously, the end credits came up and I gasped. What the hell? What the hell just happened? What the hell did any of it mean? What the hell did they do to one of my favourite movies?
If nothing else, this film serves to remind me just how lucky I was that BR2049 turned out to be such a respectful and successful continuation of the 1982 original. This new Jacobs Ladder serves as a sober reminder of why remakes/reboots/sequels are generally treated with such caution. Maybe that’s the real answer to my question of ‘why’.
Its a horrible, horrible movie though. Probably the worst movie I’ve seen all year. My advice to anyone reading this who is as similarly curious as I was: just avoid. Life is really far too short. Best watch the 1990 original instead, and live in blissful ignorance of this terrible film.