In the Past 19 Years, Director Adrian Lyne’s 1990 Psychological Thriller Jacob’s ladder has garnered a strong cult following for its unusual camera work, surreal nightmarish visions, and infamous twist endings. So it was a little surprising to hear a few years ago that a remake was in the offing. Judging by the first trailer, this reboot is more of a reinvention, keeping some of the original elements and offering a new ending.
The original Jacob’s ladder, released in 1990, starring Tim Robbins as the Vietnamese doctor Jacob Singer, whose unit is attacked in 1971. Jacob sees his comrades fall, flees into the jungle and is bayoneted in the stomach for his trouble. He wakes up on a New York City subway to find that he now lives in Brooklyn with his girlfriend, with no memory of how he got there. But increasingly haunted by horrific hallucinations, a sudden high fever, and an occasional alternate reality with his first wife and young son, Gabe, who had died in an accident before the war. Are they side effects of an experimental army drug known as “the ladder” or something more sinister and supernatural?
The 2019 remake is more of a tribute, bringing the story in a contemporary setting with new characters and similar themes. According to the official synopsis: “After losing his brother in battle, Jacob Singer returns home from Afghanistan – only to be drawn into a mind-blowing state of paranoia. Singer soon realizes that his sibling is alive, but life is not what it seems.”
What this remake apparently won’t do is recreate the original twist ending. Screenwriter Jeff Buhler, fresh from Pet Sematary and SYFYs night flyersshed some light on that departure in an interview with Rue Morgue in February:
“The concept is really about the experience of coming home and adjusting, which is very present and poignant in the original film. Tim Robbins is a soldier who is adjusting to life and feeling like a stranger in his own city and his family, so it was important to bring those concepts out and really live in that space in our film. Then we came up with a cool twist that’s different from the one in the original but has the same spirit: you follow this story with these characters, and then suddenly everything is turned upside down, and you’re like, ‘Ho! Things are different than I thought.”
The focus on the relationship between the two brothers is central to the trailer. We hear a voiceover from a therapist who encourages Jacob (Michael Ealy) to be open about the issues the two siblings were facing—particularly an intense competitive position. We see Jacob on his wedding day with Sam (Nicole Beharie), and a jealous Isaac (Jesse Williams) taunting that he got there first and covered his brother. But there is also a fierce love; both served in Afghanistan, and Jacob was devastated when Isaac was killed and blamed himself.
The point is, Jacob never saw his brother’s lifeless body. And then one night Isaac appears on the street. “We thought you were dead,” says an incredulous Sam when she sees him. Isaac replies, “Maybe I was.” But is it really Isaac? And if so, is it possible that something supernatural followed him? Because Jacob has fleeting hallucinations of demons coming after him.
There may be a new twist, but the last line we hear in the trailer echoes the dialogue from Lyne’s original: “The only part that burns in hell is the part of you that refuses to let go.” You will see that devils tear your life to pieces.”
Jacob’s ladder is scheduled for release on August 23, 2019.
List image by YouTube/Bloody Disgusting