Jacob’s Ladder (1990, dir. Adrian Lyne)
This movie. Man this movie did a number on me as a kid. At it’s core, It’s the story of a Vietnam vet living in New York City and dealing with the loss of his young son. As he deals with this loss he starts having odd hallucinations of demonic imagery and beings.
These visions build and build in their terrifying nature and cause Jacob to question his sanity. While this imagery creeped me out, it’s the movie’s arc that messed with my mind the most. We find out, along with Jacob, that all of his recent history back home in New York has been imagined.
His imagined life was his mind’s way of dealing with loose ends as he fought for his life in a field hospital back in Vietnam. This theme of “life is just a dream” always does a number on me when used in movies and television shows. Something about the idea that all of this is just in your head, that everyone you know is just a piece of your psyche trying to hip you to what reality is always unsettles to me.