‘1408’ captures terror of Stephen King story
June 21, 2007
Half the fun in scaring someone is knowing at first they were non-believers, but soon realize that there may be something out there after all. And when you have a movie based on the writings of Stephen King and an actor as good as John Cusack … wow.
Based on his short story of the same name, “1408” is filled with all of the best elements that make a horror picture so worth watching. It’s not so much the visuals of being horrified but the psychological aspect that makes this a rollercoaster ride of terror.
More movies have been built around the works of King than any other, and many of those were just his short stories, too – usually taking place on the eastern side of the country. There’s always a question, too, when reading King’s novels: Just how much of the character is really him?
Playing the part of a novelist himself, Cusack is able to pull off being the skeptic and then wondering when things start to turn really weird. In fact, as horror novelist Mike Enslin, he believes only in tangible objects that he can see. His beliefs have paid off very well for him, authoring a string of successful books that debunk the “myth” of haunted houses, cemeteries and all things paranormal. With that belief (not to mention the dollars that back up his belief), Enslin pretty much writes off the notion that there’s an afterlife as well. Up until this time, he’s not only been convinced that people who accept such behavior are nuts, but is able to explain away why things sometimes go bump in the night.
For his next project, “Ten Nights in Haunted Hotel Rooms,” Mike wants to prove there is no such thing as a haunted suite, and checks in to New York City’s Dolphin Hotel to start work on debunking the stories surrounding room 1408. Turns out nobody has stayed in that room for years, and even the hotel’s manager, Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson), tries to dissuade Enslin from checking into that room.
There’s nothing more enticing than telling somebody not to do something, knowing that will make them want to do just the opposite even more. I mean, you just know if you were in a similar situation you would have to “double dog dare” the other person into doing something that only an insane person would follow through on. Boys will be boys. Mr. Olin isn’t kidding around and warns him that guests who have checked in have never checked out, and if they have it’s that they literally checked out. never to be heard or seen again.
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What makes the tension even tighter is that Mike has done his research, with clips from newspapers and stories of room 1408, and he still insists on spending the night there. The chemistry between Cusack and Jackson is not only perfect as polar opposites, but sets up the classic Stephen King scenario: Each party so believes in his dogma that no one is going to give an inch, let alone be convinced that the other individual is right.
“1408” harkens back to the type of scary movie that constantly has you wondering what is going to take place next, writhing on the edge of your seat in anticipation.
John Cusack, being the “everyman’s actor,” was the right choice for this flick, because it is easy to see yourself in his position, being the cynic about the supernatural. Then again, you soon find yourself relieved you are not him, and safe within the confines of your theater seat, when the ghosts start proving him wrong.
All I can say is that after being subjected to so many so-so horror movies, to finally see one that messes with your psyche long before the actual terror happens … well, I wouldn’t advise those with weak hearts to see this. If you do and scare easily, I suggest you bring along a friend who is good at operating a defibrillator.
— Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv comedy club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout northern California and Nevada, including the Sirius Radio Network every Sunday evening. He hosts “Howie’s Morning Rush” on Tahoe’s KRLT radio and you can see his film reviews every Friday morning on KOLO ABC TV Channel 8.
Keepin’ it reel:
Now Playing: “1408”
Starring: John Cusack, Paul Birchard, Margot Leicester, Walter Lewis, Eric Meyers, David Nicholson, Alexandra Silber, Johann Urb, Andrew Lee Potts, Tony Shalhoub, Emily Harvey, William Armstrong, Kim Thomson, Drew Powell, Noah Lee Margetts, Samuel L. Jackson, Gil Cohen-Alloro, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Benny Urquidez, Mary McCormack and Jasmine Jessica Anthony
Directed by: Mikael Håfström
Rated: PG-13 for thematic material including disturbing sequences of violence and terror, frightening images and language
Running time: 95 minutes
Howie gives it: 4.5 out of 5 bagels