HORROR BUSINESS Episode 37: This Is Your Wide Awake Nightmare (JACOB’S LADDER & THEY LOOK LIKE PEOPLE)

Greetings, and welcome back to Horror Business. We have one awesome episode in store for you guys. On this episode we’re discussing Jacob’s Ladder and They Look Like People, and we were lucky enough to be joined by Jon The LitCritGuy!

First and foremost we want to give a shoutout to our sponsors over at Lehigh Valley Apparel Creations, the premiere screen-printing company of the Lehigh Valley. Chris Reject and his merry band of miscreants are ready to work with you to bring to life your vision of a t-shirt for your business, band, project, or whatever else it is you need represented by a shirt, sweater, pin, or coozy. Head on over to www.xlvacx.com to check them out. Thanks!

We begin by talking about what horror related things we had done lately. Jon opens the conversation by talking about recently teaching Alien and Ex Machina to his classes and hosting screenings of those films. We briefly discuss the intellectualization of the horror genre and the nature of horror fandom in America. Liam talks about seeing Brawl On Cellblock 99, and Justin talks about seeing Phoenix Forgotten, The Open House and Before I Wake. There is a brief discussion on the Truth Or Dare trailer and Godzilla: Planet Of Monsters, and Liam mentions the trailer for the upcoming ‘Bigfoot behaving badly’ movie Primal Rage.

Up first we talk about 1990’s Jacob’s Ladder. We begin by talking about our initial exposure to this film. Jon talks about specific scenes in the film that had an effect on him, especially the ‘gurney’ scene in the hospital.

Justin talks about the impact it had on the aesthetics of horror films in the 1990s, especially the ‘headshake’ effect the film pioneered and that many films and music videos went on to use. Liam talks about seeing the film on late night basic cable as a kid. Jon talks about the impact the film had on the video game franchise Silent Hill, as well as the overall bleakness of the film. Tim Robbins’ performance is discussed, as are the numerous twists and turns the film takes.

Some of the deleted scenes and the strength of having them removed are discussed, and the nature of the cinematography (quick flashes of something horrific as opposed to long looks at something horrific) is discussed. The existential nature of the film, in that it examines the horror and anxiety of every day life, is examined. Liam briefly talks about the weirdly optimistic ending. Jon compares the gurney scene in which Danny Aiello’s character rages against the hospital staff as another example of we, in every day life, cling to our every day life despite it being horrific. Some of the theological aspects of the film are examined, including those of Meister Eckhart who is quoted in the film.

There is a discussion on whether or not Louie and Jezzie are separate entities from Jacob Singer i.e. the film is entirely psychological and NOT mystical in nature, with Justin arguing the former and Liam arguing the latter. The plotline of drugs being used on unknowing soldiers in Vietnam being somewhat unnecessary and weird is discussed. We talk about the legacy this movie has, in that it had a tremendous impact on a certain age group while remaining somewhat obscure to the younger generation.


A comparison to Wes Craven’s The Serpent And The Rainbow is made, in that both films are non-traditional and non-linear approaches to the genre. Jon talks about the nature of horror film ascribed to each decade and how this film kind of bucks that trend. We discuss the possibility of the finished product being somewhat different from the screenplay and that it was a result of “director vs. screenwriter”.

Up next we talk about 2015’s They Look Like People. Jon opens up the discussion by approaching the film’s take on alienation from a Marxist perspective, as well as commenting on the intimate look of the film in that it is a very tightly shot film. Liam talks about the “smallness” of the film, in that it has a small budget and a small cast and turns that “smallness” into something truly effective.

The “horror of our emotional lives as humans” being used as an aesthetic is discussed. Justin talks about how, despite knowing from the beginning that the film is dealing entirely with phenomenon that exists only in the characters head and that there is no “they”, the film is still a terrifying look at how mental illness affects the lives of those who suffer from it, and how the tension comes from the main character knowing they have a problem and still not being able to get help. Jon talks about the tendency of horror movies to make the character with mental illness the villain and yet in this movie that character is not really in any sense bad and yet that is not enough for the film to be hopeful.

Justin talks about the fear of an unpredictable character being effective and this film successfully executing it. Liam talks about how the film, while being primarily about mental illness, the film could also be seen as an examination of a fear of religious people. We talk about how while the film deals primarily with the mental state of the main character, his friend who is seen as the more stable one is also not exactly thriving mentally.

The sense of isolation, alienation, and loneliness is discussed, in that the main character has willfully cut himself off from everyone he comes in contact with to try and improve himself in the eyes of his ex girlfriend despite being “desperate for attention” from anyone. The difference between Wyatt and Christian’s sense of loneliness, in that Wyatt’s is due to his mental illness while Christians is self imposed, is discussed.

The ambiguous nature of the ending, in that we don’t know that Wyatt’s problems just went away, is discussed. The general effectiveness of the ending, in how tense and terrifying it is, is discussed. Jon digs into the ending highlighting the high-risk nature of connecting with another human being, in that trusting another person in this case literally involves putting your body on the line.

Liam talks about how Christian letting Wyatt tie him up at the end was not an exercise in trust but more in a willful casting aside the desire to live and a sort of lackadaisical suicide attempt.

Thanks SO MUCH to Jon for being gracious enough to join us to pick these films apart. His work can be viewed at www.thelitcritguy.com, and he can be found on Twitter at @TheLitCritGuy. As always thanks to everyone and anyone who donated on Patreon, checked this episode out, or shared a tweet/shared a post on FB/gave us love by recommending us to someone. We love you forever for listening. Any questions, comments, suggestions for movies and guests, or if you yourself want to join us for a movie viewing or even an episode, can be sent to [email protected]. We would love to hear from you! Thanks always to Justin Miller and Doug Tilley for their technical contributions and fliers, Mike Smaczylo for the shirts and fliers (you can check more of his work out at here), and also thanks to Josh Alvarez for the theme song, Chris, Brad, Alexis, and LVAC for the support and buttons (check them out at www.xlvacx.com), and a HUGE thank you to anyone who retweeted us or shared something on Facebook that we posted. Follow us on Twitter at @thehorrorbiz666, like us on Facebook at facebook.com/thehorrorbiz66, and remember to rate, review, and subscribe to us on ITunes. In fact, if you write us a review, email us with your mailing address and we’ll send you some free pins and stickers! Check out www.cinepunx.com for more info on some of our other podcasts, some ultra stylish Cinepunx related merchandise, and how you can donate to our Patreon! Until next time…thanks!

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