Vertical Entertainment has snapped up distribution rights to LD Entertainment’s remake of Jacob’s Ladder, with a release planned for this summer. The original Jacob’s Ladder, starring Tim Robbins as a traumatized Vietnam vet experiencing horrifying hallucinations, was released in 1990 and went on to become a minor classic of psychological horror. Directed by the ever-provocative Adrian Lyne, the film is best remembered for its stunning Shyamalan-like third act twist (unleashed 9 years before Shyamalan himself rode a similar twist to fame with The Sixth Sense).
First rumblings of a potential Jacob’s Ladder remake were heard in 2013, when it was reported that a script was in the works from Jeff Buhler (Midnight Meat Train). James Foley was initially attached to direct, but was later replaced by David M. Rosenthal. Principal photography on the film reportedly began in 2016, with Michael Ealy (Almost Human) in the lead role. In a 2019 interview, screenwriter Buhler revealed that the remake would be a contemporary take on the original story with a completely new twist ending.
That new take on Jacob’s Ladder is now reportedly headed for theaters, as Deadline reveals that Vertical Entertainment has picked up U.S. distribution. DISH will actually debut the film exclusively in July ahead of an August theatrical release.
In addition to Michael Ealy, Jacob’s Ladder’s cast includes Jesse Williams (Grey’s Anatomy), Nicole Beharie (Shame) and Karla Souza (How to Get Away with Murder). Director David Rosenthal’s prior work includes the 2013 crime drama A Single Shot with Sam Rockwell and Jeffrey Wright, the 2015 romantic thriller The Perfect Guy starring Ealy alongside Sanaa Lathan, and the 2018 action drama How It Ends.
Written by Bruce Joel Rubin, the original Jacob’s Ladder was given a genuinely disturbing hallucinatory quality by director Adrian Lyne, who was previously best known for erotic thrillers like Fatal Attraction and 9 ½ Weeks. The film actually opened strong in theaters, finishing first its opening weekend with $7.5 million, but its mind-bending material and dark tone didn’t lead to great word-of-mouth and it ultimately made just $26 million total on a budget of $25 million. However, the film did garner a cult following and would go on to be fairly influential in the horror genre. The video game series Silent Hill in particular was influenced by the movie’s twisty plot and dream-like imagery.
Though Jacob’s Ladder is not a well-known film nowadays, it still has devotees who fondly recall its surreal imagery and thought provoking twist ending. The film’s influence on things like Silent Hill demonstrates how effective director Adrian Lyne was in capturing a certain unsettling mood, and it will be interesting to see if the new version is able to conjure up the same unnerving sense of dislocation that made the original so memorable for some people. The remake's commercial prospects would seem to be limited, but at least it’s getting a release, so perhaps it has a chance to also become a cult classic.