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Guest Post: Revisiting the Brilliantly Creepy Jacob’s Ladder by Gary Scott Beatty

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According to a casting call we happened upon on Backstage.com, the Jacob’s Ladder redux will be filming in Atlanta, Georgia, for the next few days (7/31-8/4); and it should still be heading our way sometime this year. Michael Ealy and Nicole Beharie star in the dramatic thriller centered on a Vietnam War veteran who, plagued by hallucinations and flashbacks, begins to fall apart as the world around him morphs and twists into disturbing images.

We can only hope director David M. Rosenthal’s new version lives up to its predecessor, and our guest contributor Gary Scott Beatty (author of graphic novel Wounds) strongly agrees, particular in relation to the original’s creepy horror elements…

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With the new Jacob’s Ladder movie now wrapping up production, I took another look at one of my favorite horror/thrillers and found it even more brilliantly creepy than I remembered.

Jacob’s Ladder (1990) is similar to the 1970s Giallo films I studied to write my Wounds graphic novel because it uses disorientation to keep viewers interested. Useless information is dropped into the plot, but we viewers are compelled to pay attention because we come to feel anything could be important.

Much of the creepy comes from everyday encounters we wouldn’t find the least sinister if not for director Adrian Lyne’s off-kilter camerawork. He uses extreme close-ups, quick cuts, and shadowy figures at the fringes that might (or might not) have significance to pull us through a movie with several possible outcomes.

And, of course, God is a chiropractor.

Jacob’s Ladder follows Jacob, a Vietnam War vet trying to move beyond his war experiences. Questions begin right away. Is life so spooky because that’s how Jacob feels, or is something really going on? Is there some conspiracy involving the government, aliens, or the supernatural; or are we perceiving the breakdown of Jacob’s sanity?

Every time I think I have something figured out (I’ve been reading mysteries all my life; I’m pretty good at putting pieces together, writer Bruce Joel Rubin pulls his plot threads a little more askew.

Tim Robbins’ portrayal of this veteran who can’t quite pull it together is compelling. He’s such a nice guy and he’s been through so much, we want to help him figure it out. But, like Jacob himself, we can’t seem to separate fact from dream from fantasy.

The big reveal near the end, and the ending itself, left me satisfied, thinking I knew what was going on. Then I had a “shower moment” the next day, when my mind pulled out more questions and answers. It’s that kind of movie.

Can remake director David Rosenthal keep our minds engaged, or will the new movie be an action/horror flick without substance? Many remakes fall short of brilliance, and 1990’s Jacob’s Ladder still sits on many critics’ favorites lists. More violence, more car chases, and more CGI might help a new movie sell more tickets. Personally, I enjoy horror I need to think through.

Almost certainly the length will be shortened. If you decide to take on the 1990 film, be warned it clocks in at a whopping 113 minutes. When a slow-burn movie fails, it is torturous for me, but Lyne’s Ladder keeps moving and, for me, didn’t seem overly long.

The big question about the remake is yet to be answered. Is God still a chiropractor?

Graphic novel Wounds is now available on Amazon and Comixology. For more from Gary Scott Beatty, visit him on Twitter and Facebook.

Wounds Synopsis:
Wounds throws us into a world where nothing is beyond doubt, except a father’s concern for his wife and daughter. If you enjoy that “What th-?” factor in graphic novels, you’ll enjoy Wounds.

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