Saturday, June 23, 2007


This is pure Steven King, from start to finish- and I mean that in a good way. This could be thought of as a more action oriented revision of the Shinning, all within one room. 1408 is kind of a one trick pony, but it does that trick very well, with its fair share of scares. I know that I have reviewed many scary movies, and I usually go soft on them. Don't get me wrong, this is not like most horror movies today- it's genuinely scary.

John Cusack plays Mike Enslin, an author who travels the country writing about the paranormal (all with titles "10 haunted..." various locations). He has been rather underwhelmed until he gets a mysterious postcard from the Dolphin Hotel warning him not to enter room 1408. Of course, he does. Despite insistent warnings from hotel manager Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson), Enslin is determined to spend the night. If you've seen any of the previews, you can guess what happens when he gets in the room.

Cusack delivers one of the best performances I have seen from him. This is essentially a one man show, and he aptly commands the performance. Gradually the room reveals his past as he is forced to deal with the tragedies he has been running from. Cusack crafts Enslin to be a deeply cynical, but equally emotional character. On occasion- especially during his interactions with Jackson, Cusack's charm that he is famous for comes sparkling through. I genuinely feel that he is one of the best actors out there today.

Unfortunately, most of the scary moments are hit on in the trailers, so there's not a whole lot new in the movie. Many of these spooky points are kind of cliches, and I wish it had more strictly followed Jackson and Cusack's character's testimonies- stating that there are no ghosts, just an evil room. There were those occasional moments where it seemed to rely on a crutch of specters, but to do an entire feature essentially in one room, I'll cut them a break. Best of all, after a few of the obligatory false endings, the actual end can truly be debated. I actually subscribe to several different equally valid interpretations.

1408 is true thriller, with a truly compelling back story for its protagonist. It's traditional Steven King, relying on claustrophobia and desperation, with the real horrors being tapped in the character's own mind. Cusack's performance is great, and Mikael Håfström's directing, though not stellar, is ample. He captures the tension of the movie, and keeps the small location from being boring. Most importantly of any thriller, it's scary.


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