With director James Foley, LD Entertainment and the producers of the 2011 Fright Night remake set to oversee the re-imagining of director Adrian Lyne’s 1990 psychological horror film Jacob’s Ladder, Fearnet.com sat down with the project’s screenwriter Jeff Buhler in order to get the low-down on the project.
Best known to genre audiences for scripting 2008’s Clive Barker-inspired Midnight Meat Train and writing and directing that year’s feature Insanitarium (and who is also penning the upcoming Ghost House Pictures’ re-launch of The Grudge franchise), Buhler said of the feature project (whose source material surrounds a Vietnam veteran suffering Disassociative Identity Disorder), “Jacob’s Ladder came to my attention by the producers Alison Rosenzweig and Michael Gaeta, who are friends of mine.”
“Essentially the conundrum (with doing a remake) of Jacob’s Ladder, is that first of all it’s a ‘cult’ favorite, so the only people that are really aware and passionate about the title are also very invested in the sanctity of the original,” Buhler offered.
“For me, what really has drawn me into the world (as a writer) was that the original, as much as I love the film, came at a time in our culture when we were removed from warfare by a number of decades. It was a period piece when it came out in 1990 (by) Adrian Lyne, a classic 90’s filmmaker. It was commenting on the Vietnam War, which had been commented on by a number of really great, powerful films, and so for me when I saw it, it really resonated more to me as a psychological, trippy, mind-fuck thriller, as opposed to a war commentary.”
“Since that time we’ve now waged two wars,” he continued, “and people are coming back from combat totally fucked-up. The cultural understanding of the experience of warfare and what it does to people mentally is in a completely different place than it was then. What I really wanted to do was to find a way to bring the story into that world without simply contemporizing elements of the original story, and retelling something we’ve already seen.”
“Essentially with (the original) Jacob’s Ladder, people either love or hate the ending,” Buhler stated of the film, and of his approach to writing the remake.
“A lot of the experience of that film, whether it’s positive or negative, rides on the conclusion, and once the conclusion is done the power of it is removed. It’s like how do you retell The Sixth Sense? It’s like once you know the guy is a ghost, it kind of takes the power of the film away.”
“So I wanted to find a way into the story that allowed us to play with this sort of ‘slipping reality’ that Jacob is experiencing,” he said, “without necessarily going to the same conclusion, and finding a new way to give the audience an experience that is similar in terms of impact and feeling, but that doesn’t play the same tune. It was a very tricky situation in the sense that we were trying to recreate something, but honor the spirit and concept (of the original), while telling a different story.”
As for the production company handling Jacob’s Ladder, “LD Entertainment has a really good gauge for genre stuff, and they are really daring,” said Buhler.
“I think for them, Jacob’s Ladder is an opportunity to tell a really elevated and compelling story within the genre space, and make some noise with that. James Foley (Glengarry Glen Ross, Fear) has been hired to direct, and he’s done these very character-driven, compelling stories, so we are going to get something that really digs into that experience of coming home, and what happens when you feel like you are losing your grip on reality.”
“They are casting right now,” he concluded of Jacob’s Ladder, “and they are making offers to some pretty big names, and they are approaching this not as an exploitation remake of a genre film that has a cult following, but approaching this as an opportunity to tell a new story with A-list talent from top to bottom. The scripts been getting really good reads from people, and the reaction has been very, very positive, so I have all the confidence in the world.”