Danny Aiello

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Four – 10/04/18

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Four – 10/04/18

10/04 – 1990: JACOB’S LADDER


I was a pretty big Adrian Lyne fan when JACOB’S LADDER came out. I mean, come on! FOXES, FLASHDANCE, FATAL ATTRACTION, NINE AND A HALF WEEKS.  If anyone had the kind of eccentric visual flair that would translate very well into horror, it would be him. Plus, the script was by BRUCE JOEL RUBIN (BRAINSTORM, GHOST, DEADLY FRIEND). How could I not anticipate this movie?

Well, anticipate it, I did.  And hate it, I did, too (sorry for the “Yoda-isms”). But the strong emotions that it evoked in me and the audience I saw it with – who were about as pissed-off as I was by the ending – may have been Lyne’s intention all along. It just took me a decade or two to realize that. And now I kind of see it in a different light than before, because…why? I can relate to it better, now that time has passed, and I have a bit more life experience under my belt? Maybe.  But enough about me. The movie is what’s important here, and if you’ve never seen it before, it’s one of those where you owe yourself the chance to start it at the very least.  As with any cinema, you can always bail if you’re not into it.

TIM ROBBINS plays Jacob Singer, a Vietnam vet affected by a pretty severe case of a kind of dissociative disorder. In English, that means he has an extreme problem keeping fantasies, nightmares and delusions separated from reality, and that’s if he can keep track of when and where they happened.  Or even if they happened to him at all.

He may be back ‘in country’, but it doesn’t appear that he came back alone, as he is constantly bombarded with horrific visions and images that only he is able to see. He literally brought his demons back from the war with him, and they seem ready to skin him alive…and do things much, much worse than that.

Only two seemingly bright spots in his life give him a reason not to go completely fucking looney tunes: his sympathetic girlfriend, Jezzie (ELIZABETH PENA) and a good friend who’s also his “doctor”, Louis (DANNY AIELLO.)

It seems that the harder Jacob tries to run from the apparitions pursuing him, (in a series of eerily shot, terrifying set-pieces), the more intense and terrifying his experiences become, leading to a climax where…well, I won’t say here, but I will give you a hint: think back to when you studied Ambrose Bierce in high school English. And for you more literate types, that is one helluva huge spoiler.

JACOB’S LADDER was, to my knowledge, my first exposure to the concept of an ‘unreliable narrator’, where the lead character you’re invested in either purposefully, or through no fault of his or her own, are caught up in circumstances that convince you that one thing is happening, until you find out at the end that everything you thought you knew was dead wrong.  Which explained the pissed-off audience.  And little did I know – it wouldn’t be the last time I encountered this kind of thing in a film, especially a horror film.

But overall, Lyne, the cheeky bastard, did a splendid job of mind-fucking his viewers, as he should have, following the Rubin script. And it is pretty much one of Tim Robbins’ best performances.  Not to mention that the striking and disorienting special visual FX were the kind of images that no one had really seen at that time – not outside of a weird MTV video, anyway. Now, it’s par for the course for many horror films, and usually considered “tried-and-true.” Whether or not I think it’s Lyne’s best work is irrelevant now.  When people ask about good horror films with a Vietnam theme, I always mention JACOB’S LADDER in the same breath as Bob Clark’s groundbreaking cult classic, DEATHDREAM, or even “ANTHONY M. DAWSON’S” CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE.

BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Stuff (1985)

BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Stuff (1985)


By Nick Durham

Arrow Video is going to make me go fucking broke. That being said, when it comes to their quality Blu-ray releases, it's pretty much money well spent. Arrow's release of the Larry Cohen schlock classic The Stuff is no exception. A long time favorite film out of the long list of films that Cohen has been behind, The Stuff is a bona-fide guilty pleasure of ridiculousness and awesomeness; all wrapped up in a nice little package.

Most of you more than likely know the plot of The Stuff: The Stuff is a new and mysterious dessert that is taking the world by storm. Everyone seems to love it for some reason; so much so that it's putting other snack companies in tough spots. Enter professional industrial saboteur Moe (Cohen favorite and Law & Order vet Michael Moriarity), who is hired to uncover the secrets of The Stuff, and is eventually teamed up with young Jason (Scott Bloom), who has discovered that The Stuff is taking on a life of its own.

There's not much else to the story of The Stuff; other than the film is absolutely fucking bonkers. Moriarty plays it firmly tongue-in-cheek, while everyone else plays it relatively serious (for some reason), until we're introduced to Paul Sorvino's military man character, and from that point forward it's an absolute hoot. It also happens to be one of Cohen's better crafted films, and it also manages to contain enough social commentary to save it from being terrible schlock, and some of it shockingly manages to hold up today if you can believe that.

This Blu-ray release from Arrow Video is quite good, and definitely blows the old Anchor Bay DVD release from years back away. The film has been restored and looks better than ever, and the film's mono soundtrack sounds better than ever as well. There's a new documentary on the film featuring interviews from Cohen and others, the film's trailer is here as well (which features a commentary from Darren Lynn Bousman for some reason), and a collector's booklet as well.

All in all, Arrow may not have put the extreme amount of love and care into this release compared to some of their other releases, but this is still a great pick up regardless. I've always had a soft spot for The Stuff, as have many others, which is why it has managed to resonate for the past thirty plus years. So go out, pick this up, and indulge yourself aplenty.

Rating: 4/5


Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments