By: Justin Hopkins
A Co-worker lent me the original and while I enjoyed it. Thought it would make a great remake. A great story, with psychologically disturbing element to it. Just knew if they came at it from a different approach, they could do something special. When I heard about that one was indeed being made, was excited, but as quickly as I heard, it kind of vanished. Read it was coming to theaters, but it turned out to select theaters and kind of slipped by me for a bit. Now, here we are. A little late to the party, but that is okay. The only question, is was it worth the wait? So, lets travel the ladder, and breakdown Jacob’s Ladder.
The movie starts out with a soldier, being triggered into a flashback, by the sound of a can crushing under his foot. Can became a bomb, and helicopters and flashing lights. All stopping when he took a drug. Only, to have what appeared to be choked out from behind in one moment, and overdosing the next. Two people dragging his body away after he died. We jump to a military base, where Jacob is talking. Feeling is slightly uneasy. He goes to make a call home, and find out he is going to be a Father, when he has to leave, cause a wounded soldier is brought in. Turning out to be his brother, and as the sound of a flatline comes in. We see Jacob in a surgery room, in a hospital. Lost a person and the sound triggered the previous flashback. We see he has a happy life, with his Wife Samantha and son Gabriel. Except, he is having nightmares of a firefight. After he arrives at the hospital, another Soldier has an Overdose, and like the first. He too, is taking the drug. On his way to the therapist, he runs into a homeless Vet, who claims that his Brother Isaac is not only alive, but in the city and is in danger. He doesn’t believe it, nor does his therapist. On the subway he experiences his first hallucination, and when he gets home. Is attacked by two men. One of which is horribly mutilated. He tried to take the second to the police station, but he is not in the trunk. Except the same vet is there, and this time, Jacob takes him seriously. Is going to take him to Isaac, and starts to explain what H.D.A is. A drug that targets traumatic memories in those with P.T.S.D. Except, it makes them crazy, and people are hunting them down. Before he can get finish. Is pushed in front of a train. When no one believes him. Jacob takes it on himself to investigate and after a few jumpscares. He finds Isaac, except the paranoia and as the line between truth and fantasy gets even wider. We find that nothing we have seen is how it is supposed to be and I will leave it there.
(I am putting this here as a secondary warning. If you are planning on watching this movie and checking this out first to see what others think. Would suggest not going further cause I am going to talk about the twist and can ruin the experience of watching it unfold.)
This movie.. tries to pull off a wild swerve, and I didn’t see it coming till the big reveal. Which is that Jacob was the lost brother, on The Ladder all this time, and Isaac was the V.A.Doctor the whole time and The Ladder not only was wiping out the traumatic memory, but making him believe that he was his brother the whole time. Now, I think it was creative, but the process of achievement was very sloppy. There wasn’t a gradual change in the characters, but a rough and rugged one, Samantha especially, cause she was coming off more unlikeable the more we saw her. They really could have used a bit more time to show a natural shift of Samantha and Jacob being the coupe to Samantha and Isaac, but that was not the only problem. An even bigger one, was what Jacob did immediately after, by going to the red head we saw earlier.
She turned out to be a dealer of sorts, working with Hoffman. This scene felt so tact on, because they wanted to bring in more from the original Jacob’s Ladder with her demonic angel wings. The problem is that they were telling a completely different story and it no longer fit the narrative. Would have been better to skip the scene all together and go to Hoffman, or the very least, show her with the wings earlier, and not have them here.
Now, this movie wasn’t all negative. There were some good things as well, and thing I loved was the message that this was telling. They really got the Flashback scene at the beginning of the movie right. The smallest surprise of a loud sound is all it takes to trigger a flashback. Showing how many soldiers suffer from PTSD. The lengths some will go to make the memories stop and how susceptible they are to people like Hoffman. Who is using them like lab rats. A pretty powerful message to have.
Acting wise, you have Michael Ealy playing Jacob and Jesse Williams playing Isaac. I did enjoy their chemistry when they were together. About to building up the brotherly bond between the two. Each had difficult roles, because they had to pretty much switch on the fly. While they pulled it off, Nicole Beharie didn’t. Don’t want to point the finger at her. Maybe if she had more time, would work better, or might be better if I watched it again, but first opinion; she wasn’t that good. Lastly, I did enjoy Guy Burnet’s Hoffman. He seemed like a throw away character till the end, but I did enjoy his speech at the end. As twisted as it was, legitimately believed that he was the only one doing anything for the vets.
Would I suggest this movie to someone? A question that has been floating back and forth since the movie ended, and even all the way through this blog. I enjoyed some of the acting and I liked the message with the P.T.S.D. In a way, it did keep the spirit of Jacob’s Ladder, but only as far as the drug is concerned. The demons were more tacked on to appease the fans of the original and used as nothing more than a jump scare than anything. And the swerve, while creative, wasn’t executed well and I am sure there are better movies that tackle the P.T.S.D. side of things. With that said, I would suggest checking it out. It’s not a movie for everyone, you can have a bit of fun with it, and I did enjoy watching it. And that is all I got. I hope you enjoyed and as always…
Thank you for reading.
By: Justin Hopkins
When I was thinking about which movies to pit against each other this month. Kind of struggled to think of one. Was sort of leaning towards The Longest Yard, due to football being synonymous with Thanksgiving, but wasn’t sitting well with me. So, I kept thinking. What could be a good movie to go with the month, where we celebrate by having a massive family dinner, and soon it became clear, that only one family dinner fit the bill. While I did plan on covering this movie at some point, Texas Chainsaw Massacre being in a polarizing state over which one is better, but polarizing with myself. This two, Original and Remake are great and stick with you no matter how much time has passed (More on that later) For all intended purposes, should be right down my alley. The first one was enjoyable and before I watched the remake for this review. I haven’t seen it since its theater run in 2003 and I remembered it so well, because it was one of a handful of movies to legit scare me, but for some reason. Just never have the desire to watch them after first viewing. As always though, this series is all about leaving personal grudges aside, along with nostalgia and give it a genuine honest review as I can. Lets jump right in with the original good times roll.
Special Shoutout to John Larroquette, for narrating both.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974
The story opens up with a narration, telling us that we are about to see a tragedy befall our main characters. Setting the story up like it is a retelling of a true crime. We hear a bit of shuffling around and flashes of grizzly images like they are photographs and then a decomposing body and radio report. Five teens on their way to check on Sally and Franklin’s Grandfather’s grave, to make sure it wasn’t vandalized and plan on stopping at their old families house. A regular road trip, that makes a turn for the worse when they pick up a hitchhiker. Who turns out to be real psychopath. Laughing maniacally and going into vivid details on cow slaughter and even sharing pictures with the group. The situation gets worse, when he takes Franklin’s knife and uses it on his own hand. They get it off of him, but when they try to get him to leave. He brings out a knife of his own and cuts Franklin’s arm, before they get him out. Continuing with their trip to the house. Ignoring the warnings and make it. Kirk and Pam venture off to the swimming hole when they hear a generator from another house. Aware that they need gas, they go over to buy some, and we get our first meeting of LeatherFace, who makes quick work of Kirk and sticks Pam on a meat hook. Forcing her to watch the dismembering. Then Jerry gets it when he goes looking and Franklin falls next. Leaving Sally alone and fleeing for her life.
The story was fantastic. It was dark and gritty. Borderlining psychological by how in your face and mocking the Sawyer family were toward Sally. Laughing at her misery. Characters all brought something different to the table and stood out. The shots were all well done, especially around the deaths. You don’t get much in the way of a kill shot, closest being Kirk, with the body twitching after the sledgehammer shot, but I feel that it works better in this case. They leave it up to your imagination of what is happening and that can be more impactful than actually seeing it.
Acting was spot on. Edwin Neal was tremendous as hitchhiker. Allen Danziger, Paul A. Partain, William Vail, Teri McMinn were perfect as four of the teens. Enough praise can’t be showered on Marilyn Burns. Her performance as Sally was spectacular. Gunnar Hansen created a horror movie icon and one I don’t hear really anything on and that is John Dugan who played Grandfather. He didn’t do much. Decrepit old man, but the little motion and bouncing in joy as he sucked her finger was beyond disturbing. Extremely disturbing.
The thing is, the positives are a double edged sword. The shots in the woods are at times, a bit hard to follow. The dinner scene is one of the best of the film, but the screaming bits lasts about a minute too long. Doubled down on the same thing with the Get’er Grandfather scene. Great, but goes on a bit to long. Then there is Franklin. Still confused on what his role actually is. He comes across as the unlikeable one you want to see die, but thinking about it, I would be pretty worked up to. Our first look at him he falls down a hill when a trucker freaks him out. Causing his chair to roll down a hill. Sliced by the Hitchhiker, and taken to a place where his chair can’t go, and kind of ditched by his group. Plus, him being in a wheelchair, means there is not much he can actively do to defend himself or his friends.
With all of that said, this is still a solid film all the way through. It was unique and terrifying without being weighed down by senseless gore. They let the story, actors, and well timed shots tell the tale, and delivered in spades. Although, I do wonder what happened to the truck driver at the end. He was kind of just left their on the side of the road. If I missed something or they did give one; let me know. Final Grade: A
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2003
This time around, the prologue consisted of police footage of a cop heading into the Hewitt basement. Before we jump to the five teens. On their way to a concert, where they once again, pick up a hitchhiker. A woman who is in a state of shock and has to be brought into the van. Who immediately panic when she realizes they are heading back the way she came. After saying that she won’t go back and warning them they were all going to die. Produces a revolver and blows her brains out, in an extremely graphic visual. They stop off at the gas station to call the cops, and show Erin’s ability to use a knife. They are told they have to go meet the sheriff at the Mill and have a moral dilemma on whether or not they should just leave the body. Where they meet a small kid named Jedidiah. Who tells them the Sheriff is drunk at home and Kemper and Erin go off to get him themselves. There they meet a man an old man in a wheelchair who distracts Erin while LeatherFace takes down Kemper. Meanwhile back at the truck, Sheriff finally arrives to collect the body. Erin returns but without Kemper, and herself and Andy to go and find him. Only to be cornered by the old man and then, attacked by Leatherface. Andy tries to run, but gets his leg cut off and placed on the meat hook. Erin makes it back to the van, but the Sheriff returns and places them under arrest, only to begin to torment them. Forcing Morgan to act out the suicide and after a failed kill attempt the sheriff. Morgan is taken and LeatherFace is sent in to collect Piper and Erin. Who dispatches of Piper in quick fashion. Leaving just Erin on the run, but this time, the family is much larger, more demented and not going to say anymore for those who have not seen it.
Signs of a good remake is to take a well known story and make changes and twists on the ball. You get the same story, but add to it, and this movie should always be held to a gold standard for that. We got to see LeatherFace making skin masks and look at what was underneath. The ending was longer and her escape was earned. Then there was the introduction of the Sheriff. In these types of movies, the audience tends to be waiting for the main killer, I.E LeatherFace, but with his character. Being a huge mix of psychological and physical violence added to it. Making him as creditable of a threat as LeatherFace himself and that is a massive task to pull off. Giving Morgan a sort of a redemption arc was a good addition as well. Seeing him going from the one who wanted to abandon the body at the beginning to throwing his broken and battered body at Leatherface to protect Erin. He stood no chance and ended up getting chainsawed, but was a nice moment for his character. The shots again were all fantastic. Leatherface and then Erin using spyholes was nice. Helping to build the tension. You got a lot more gore and violence shown, with the suicide and some shots here and there, but utilized cutaways to similar effect as the first.
The actors had big shoes to fill, but they did a perfect job at casting. Jonathan Tucker, Erica Leerhsen, Mike Vogel, and Eric Balfour were excellent. Jessica Biel was absolutely stellar. Taking the main lead spot from Marilyn Burns, and she definitely shined, with so much more to do. They gave her a slight edge a bit, but showed vulnerability as well. Her torture went further than what the family was putting her through, but also had to take the life of her friend Andy to put him out of his misery. Erin was likeable and wanted to see her succeed. With her longer escape scene and attacking LeatherFace straight up with a butcher knife. Then ran over the sheriff for added measure. Jessica Biel took all of that and blew it out of the water. R. Lee Ermey was straight gold. He created a menacing character and the movie was that much better for having him. Andrew Bryniarski really took the classic role of LeatherFace and made it his own. Came across as threatening with his sheer size and came across more lethal than ever.
Going to tell you the truth. I don’t have much in the way of negative to say about this movie. Everything they did just worked so well. If I did have to say something negative. They could have ended with Erin escaping in the truck. They didn’t really need to have what they had afterwards, but at the same time. It helped Erin’s victory by giving the Sheriff his comeuppance and make off with the baby at the same time. It was nice, but not needed. Final Grade: S
Winner- The Remake.
I have to give it to the remake. As enjoyable and dark and gritty the first one was. The remakes extended story, R.Lee Ermey and Andrew Bryniarski adding so much more brutality and psychological elements. There presence alone automatically rampts up the tension to a high. The family as a whole seems much more lethal than goofy. You throw in Jessica Biel playing a stronger character and they were about to spin it into a much more satisfying and compelling story all the way around.
Thank you for reading
By Paul Anthony
I know there was a lot of hype when this movie was announced, the hype was weird because Netflix just made two awesome films that brought the franchise back from the dead when the Seed of Chucky was released. When people announce a reboot they generally don’t want the former cast and crew involved, by now we should realize this because this is nothing new yet people will still boo woo, so here is some advice go see the product when it comes out so they won’t reboot it then. Now this film was labeled as a reboot, the intent is to reboot the series if this was a standalone film it was clear this would be reimagination because it is a twist to a old story.
Now let’s get to the movie shall we, now there are some things they did right and other things they did wrong so let’s get to what they did right. For starters casting Mark Hamill for the voice of this new Chucky was a great idea. Replacing Brad Dourif was no easy task but then again Mark Hamill is just as good. Adding a computer program as the issue instead of voodoo was another thing that I did enjoy, we are now in the age of films where people want to actually believe it could happen and we all know how computers can be.
Now Here are the things that weren’t bad but wasn’t good either and that is Andy’s age in this one I just find it hard to believe that a 13 year old kid would want a doll to play with unlike a much younger kid, yet it was workable. Here is what I don’t like the characters in this movie seemed to be rushed. One minute Andy doesn’t have friends and the next minute he does and shortly after things his friends turn their back him. I get kids are like that but still there should be more to it and was it sad that I had no love for the mother and didn’t care if she died. The chucky doll design did look fake and cheesy compared to what the original had going for it.
Though the character development was weak I still have to praise the film for being better then I thought. I believe this film could be good enough to spawn a sequel which based on how it ended I think they intend to make a part but we all know money talks so if the film fails to make it big then it ends there, in the end I get it 3.8 stars and hope for a part two!