There are two sub-genres in horror that just never please me, and no matter how many movies are made I’m pretty sure 99% of them will suck. Werewolf films and ghost stories will be the death of me… if there’s a hell Satan would just play every single one that was ever made and that would be my eternity of pain. It’s safe to say that going into Dimension’s 1408 I was ready for the worst, prepared to start clawing my eyes out. Only I didn’t, in fact I left the theater feeling revived and pretty damn good. I had just seen a good ghost movie – probably the best since THE RING!
Adapted from the terrifying short story by suspense master, Stephen King, 1408 is the tale of a debunker of paranormal occurrences who encounters real terror when he checks into the notorious Room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel. Renowned horror novelist Mike Enslin (John Cusack) believes only in what he can see with his own two eyes. But after a string of bestsellers discrediting paranormal events in the most infamous haunted houses and graveyards around the world, he has no real proof of life…afterlife. But Enslin’s phantom-free run of long and lonely nights is about to change forever when he checks into suite 1408 of the notorious Dolphin Hotel for his latest project, “Ten Nights in Haunted Hotel Rooms.” Defying the warnings of the hotel manager (Samuel Jackson), the author is the first person in years to stay in the reputedly haunted room. Once in he’s the digital clock next to his bead rolls to 60:00 and starts counting down – what happens when the time runs out?!
Quite the opposite of Lionsgate’s BUG, Mikael Hafstrom’s 1408 is extremely claustrophobic, which works well with the main premise of the film – being trapped in a hotel room during a full blown ghost attack. I can’t really think of many things more terrifying than not having anywhere to run while various supernatural occurrences are happening. In the movie THE HAUNTING, at least they had an entire mansion to run through, in 1408 Mike Enslin (Cusack) can do nothing but drink himself stupid… then duck and cover. Not only is he trapped and has nowhere to go, but he only has 60-minutes to solve the mystery before….? This only intensifies the suspense through the film in a way that Hitchcock would have been proud.
The main problem with 1408 is that we’ve pretty much seen all of this before, and there’s an extremely long “red herring” moment in the middle of the film that takes way to long to pay off (think watching five episodes of Lost just for the small twist). This pulls us out of the room and gives us a moment to breathe, which completely takes away from how intense the finale could (and should) have been.
Oddly enough I’d call this a ‘companion piece’ to Stephen King’s THE SHINING. Although two very different movies, both feel like they come from the same world – only Room 237 is now Room 1408. Maybe this is the story of what went on in Jack Torrance’s room that drove him mad?
I don’t see anyone being disappointed with 1408 and I’m quite sure this might become some people’s favorite horror film this year. It’s quite possible that 1408 will do the same thing to people who stay in hotel rooms as JAWS did to people visiting the beach… maybe you should cancel your reservation right now? I know I’ll be checking back into room 1408 as soon as it hits theaters.