5 posts categorized "Psychological Thriller"

March 25, 2014


Jacob's LadderNearly a decade before audiences chatted about the “surprise” ending of “The Sixth Sense” as though it were a big deal, Adrian Lyne’s psychological thriller left its audience too depleted to speak. “Jacob’s Ladder” is a terrifying film, a devastating experience people try to forget, rather than bring up at parties.

Tim Robbins plays Jacob Singer, a lanky Vietnam War veteran who suffers from hallucinations. Many times, his whole life — complete with a romantic relationship to a beautiful woman — seems questionable. By day, Jacob works for the post office in New York City with his live-in girlfriend Jezzie (Elizabeth Peña). On the subway he reads a dog-eared copy of Camus’s absurdist novel “The Stranger,” about a man who doesn’t cry at his mother’s funeral. Flashbacks from his wartime experiences with his troop haunt him, as do remembrances of a failed marriage that ended after their young son was run over on his bicycle.


Tim Robbins sums up his bedeviled character with a delicate balance of intelligence and fog. He’s like a wounded puppy the audience wants to help. However, people and things are out to get Jacob. He’s almost run over by a subway car. A carload of men tries to run him down. Weird demons appear at the fringes of his vision.

A visit to his sympathetic chiropractor Louie (Danny Aiello) finally helps alleviate the nagging confusion and physical pain that Jacob suffers. When Jacob slips into a 106 fever, Jezzie and his apartment’s neighbors bring ice to pour on his scalding body in the bathtub.


Adrian Lyne masterfully coordinates the way the audience experiences Jacob’s knotted state so that there is ebb and flow to the way the exposition mounts. The audience has to time to think between excruciating sequences of suspense.

Jacob’s ever-revealing flashbacks prompt him to reconnect with the other surviving members of his company. They too suffer from ghastly hallucinations. Vague memories of a violent attack in the Vietnam jungle demand answers. Jacob and his Army buddies decide to request an investigation into the mysterious event that ended their service, but inexplicably back out after meeting with an attorney.


Is Jacob’s post-traumatic stress disorder a symptom or a cause? Is, or was, Jacob a lab rat in a government experiment à la the CIA’s LSD trials? Are any of Jacob’s friends really on his side, or are they all in on a plot to ruin him? These and many other big questions proliferate a movie about war and human life from a well-informed perspective that sees through the miasma of social distractions that the media and history pile on.

The ending to “Jacob’s Ladder” has long been cause for confusion to critics and filmgoers alike. You can’t watch the film without getting involved.

Rated R. 116 mins. (A+) (Five Stars - out of five/no halves)

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October 26, 2009


Savoring von Trier
The Best Horror Film of the Last 30 Years
By Cole Smithey

Antichrist-movie-posterLars von Trier is a true poet of cinema. He has a painterly eye for composition — formal, surrealistic, and radical. In a natural setting of a remote cabin named Eden, hidden deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, von Trier scorches his dark mark with one of the most shocking horror films of the past 30 years.

The Danish filmmaker creates a tense and provocative collage of death, brutality, psychotherapy, and sexual desire, with the fury of Mother Nature. A symphony of simultaneous madness afflicting the females of various species of animals parallels the mental deterioration of a wife (Charlotte Gainsbourg) after the death of her son, who fell out a window while the couple was making love.

Working with the enigmatic Lars von Trier - Los Angeles Times

Willem Dafoe, as her therapist husband, tries to head off his wife's teetering nervous breakdown with therapy exercises and goal-oriented exercises that amplify her fear of staying "in the woods." His insistence that they go on the retreat to face her fears, thus healing her mental breakdown, her leads to all sorts of symbolically evil events that surround Gainsbourg as a sexually aggressive and violent woman.

Antichrist - Pure Movies : Pure Movies

Von Trier toys with implying an archetypal status to the husband, referred to only as "He," and Gainsbourg's character, credited as "She." "He" is a logical person, who substitutes the remorse he feels for the loss of his child with curing his deeply disturbed wife even if such an effort contradicts obvious ethical concerns for his professional duty as a psychoanalyst that should prevent him from treating a member of his own family. "She," on the other hand, places an inordinate importance on sex as a way of distancing herself from the result of the activity that was responsible for bringing her son into the world and for inadvertently casting him out.

Antichrist (2009) - Projected Figures

After its press screening at the New York Film Festival, I asked von Trier about the implications of the film's biblical references, such as naming the couple's isolated retreat "Eden" and an oblique reference to "Satan." The candid filmmaker replied that if anything it was to reject the existence of God.

Von Trier has publicly discussed his battle with depression that led to writing "Antichrist" as a kind of self-therapy before filming the movie with a lazy approach that took full advantage of employing free association to add or augment scenes. The auteur sites Strindberg as an influence, and you can recognize it in von Trier's formal distillation of social and personal ideas. "Antichrist" is broken into three stages, "Grief," "Pain," and "Despair." But the terms play so loosely with the action of each act that the superseding action on display challenges the audience to equate the horrors on-screen with traumatic events in their own lives. 

Charlotte Gainsbourg Nude Pictures. Rating = 7.87/10

Like Luis Bunuel, von Trier works from a rich subconscious narrative landscape where adult fears and fantasies are played out beyond their illogical parameters. Where a film like "The Exorcist" works on a corollary algorithm pitting good against evil, von Trier embraces the cruelty of nature, with its psychological frailty and physical vulnerability pressed hard to the fore. That he does so within an intimate romantic context that calls into play furious aspects of sadomasochistic sexuality that fire the film into an area of implacable volatility. 

Antichrist (2009/dir. Lars von Trier/Denmark) – Trier's Depression Symphony  Part 1 | Movie Motorbreath

"Antichrist" is a demanding film that pushes its dark ideas and exaggerated situations through a dialectic of carefully guided precepts and stark visual cues. As with Alfred Hitchcock, Lars von Trier deploys a direct cinematic language that allows the audience to trust in his mastery of filmic art, as well as his ability to gross them out without breaking their confidence.

Is Antichrist anti-women? - Independent.ie

Lars von Trier is a master filmmaker on a mission to fragment reality. His exploration into the genre of horror has given us a film far more frightening than anything Hollywood would ever allow. As with all of von Trier's films, there's some Dogme (the filmmaking manifesto that he co-wrote) for the audience to chew on. If "Antichrist" is the "most important film of von Trier's career," as he has stated, then there is all the more reason to savor it.

Antichrist | Michael Fassbender's Shame is Full of Sex, Yet Not  Titillating: The Top 10 Least Sexy Sex Filed Movies | TIME.com

(IFC Films) Rated R. 109 mins. 

5 Stars


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