General Release 2007
99 minutes approx
Mike Enslin -
Gerald Olin -
Samuel L Jackson
Lily Enslin -
Directed by -
Written by -
Matt Greenberg, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski
Mike Enslin is a professional ghost sceptic. He writes books about supposedly haunted places, giving them ghoul ratings, without ever believing in the supernatural. In fact, since his daughter died, he's had a hard time believing in anything anymore. When he recieves a mysterious postcard picturing New York's Dolphin Hotel with the simple message 'Don't Enter 1408' (add up the numbers), he does some research and discovers that a lot of people have died in that room. He is further intrigued when the hotel refuses to let him book into the room. Invoking an old law, he compels them to do so, but not before the hotel manager attempts to talk him out of it, giving him the full history of the room. Determined, however, he enters the room and....ah, but that would be telling.
1408 is based on a short story by Stephen King. The operative word in that statement is 'short'. If King (never a man to use a word when a page and a half of flowery prose and several local colloquisms will do) can't stretch the concept out to more than a short story, how will it fare as a feature length film? Let's face it, Stephen King adaptations vary from the spectacularly good to the spectacularly awful. For every THE SHINING there's a MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE, for every MISERY a PET SEMATARY. Still, the man sells books and the allure of that built in audience can't be ignored.
1408 benefits from a very simple central concept. The set up reads very much like that of the similar THE SHINING. Admittedly, that's a full novel and the whole hotel is haunted rather than just one haunted hotel room, but the whole writer coming to the hotel to be met by the manager who explains the history of the place is very, very familiar. It is given a nice twist, though, by the very suave performance from Samuel L Jackson as the manager. His delivery of the room's backstory is vital in setting the scene and starting to crank up the dread atmosphere. He does it extremely well. By the time that Enslin is faced with the door of room 1408, the tension is already way up there.
Once inside the room, John Cusack carries the whole film on his shoulders. The creepy noises and strange happenings begin, low key at first, and he plays suitably cocky descending into impressed to unnerved and slowly starts to come unglued as the room starts to play increasingly wierd and harsh tricks with his mind. There are a lot of 'jump' moments, but these are particularly effective because of the slow build up creating a very real sense of unease. The first shock moment, for example, is as simple as the bed suddenly being turned down despite no maid having entered the room. A trip outside the window is also a knockout. The appearance of his daughter is particularly affecting.
It doesn't all work quite so well, however. The ghosts don't look particularly ghost-like, more like pictures from a malfunctioning TV and the window/hand interface is predictable from way off. Also the trip back to LA's beach is an obvious time-filler, jammed in there to expand on the lack of King stuff to make up the running time, and it robs the latter stages of some of their claustrophobic quality.
All of this, though, is reliant on John Cusack. Once inside the room, it's a one-man show and he is able to make. His character is a cocky arse at the start, but his descent into hell is a tour de force and makes everything seem that much more believable. Through him, this stuff is genuinely scary.
Not the greatest Stephen King adaptation in the world, then, but firmly in the top flight and guaranteed to make you think twice about booking into that next hotel room.Top
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