Michael Enslin’s a talented writer who left behind the world of textured fiction to pen a series of pulp books on haunted locations. Currently at work on his latest project, Ten Nights in Haunted Hotel Rooms, Enslin (John Cusack) comes across a postcard warning him to stay away from the Dolphin Hotel’s room 1408. Curiosity piqued, he begins researching the Dolphin and quickly discovers an unusual number of grisly deaths have occurred in the hotel’s suite 1408.
No one is allowed to stay in 1408 by order of the hotel’s manager, Gerald Olin (Samuel L Jackson). But Enslin, after much pushing and prodding, gets his way and is handed the room’s old-fashioned key (magnetized cards malfunction in 1408’s door…spooky…). After settling into the suite, Enslin – a non-believer – at first tries to make light of the room’s quirky little attributes. But just as he settles in, the room stops playing nice and treats Mr. Enslin to a display of its horrific best.
No matter the material John Cusack always manages to completely dissolve into character. Cusack does it again this time as a tormented writer whose cynical view of the supernatural is put to the ultimate test. Cusack has to spend much of the film alone in a hotel room but he handles the job so well there’s not a moment when you don’t understand exactly what he’s going through, even with limited dialogue.
The Bottom Line
Director Mikael Hafstrom and screenwriters Matt Greenberg and Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski deliver a fully fleshed out central character and let the story develop without rushing along. And, thankfully, 1408 delivers its chills and thrills by not going overboard on the effects. By opting to go with less blood and more old-school type of spooky apparitions, director Hafstrom has created one of the best film adaptations of a Stephen King story to date. The source material was only 37 pages long, yet 1408 the movie is so totally in keeping with the tone of the original material it feels as though King himself expanded the story into a novel-size version.
1408’s a real white-knuckle ride with half a dozen good jumpy scares. When Cusack closes the hotel suite’s door behind him 30 minutes into the film, the audience is trapped right there with him as he falls victim to one paranormal experience after another. 1408’s a room none of us would want to visit in real life but one everyone should spend some time in while in the safety of a darkened theater. Released in the midst of sequels and remakes and knock offs, 1408 is a real original that stands out and stands above the rest of the summer movie madness.
1408 was directed by Mikael Hafstrom and is rated PG-13 for thematic material including disturbing sequences of violence and terror, frightening images and language.