Michael Sauter
May 24, 1991 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Jacob's Ladder

Current Status
In Season
115 minutes
Elizabeth Pena, Tim Robbins, Danny Aiello, Jason Alexander, Matt Craven
Adrian Lyne
Mystery and Thriller, Drama, Horror

We gave it a B+

The video-store posters for this cassette are hyping it as a Macaulay Culkin vehicle. So much for thruth in video marketing. Yes, the Home Alone kid is here, in a brief though pivotal role. But the real star in Jacob’s Ladder is Tim Robbins as Jacob Singer, A Vietnam vet whose life has become one long, bad trip. He sees ghouls in the subway, encounters a winged demon on a crowded dance floor, is plagued by flashbacks of wartime horrors. Is he going crazy? Is he being victimized by some secret conspiracy? Or is he dead?

The mystery keeps you hanging until the very end; along the way, the film’s levels of reality shift with (intentionally) unnerving abruptness. Some of the subtler shocks — a reptilian tail curling under a coat, a strange growth on somebody’s head — are difficult to see on small screen, although most of them show up strikingly. Pouring on the paranoia with relentless intensity, director Adrian Lyne (Flashdance, Fatal Attraction) has mounted a thoroughly riveting nightmare. B+

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