At the Movies with Alan Gekko: 1408

MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Horror/ Stars: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Mary McCormack, Tony Shalhoub, Len Cariou, Isiah Whitlock, Jr., Jasmine Jessica Anthony/ Runtime: 104 or 112 minutes (depending on the cut of the film you are watching)

I feel it must be said that in the process of doing my usual pre-movie review writing research, I was astonished to uncover that 1408 was actually the first time since 2004 when the movie Riding the Bullet was released that a movie that was inspired by a Stephen King story had been able to get shown in theaters. Suffice it to say then that 1408 manages to make this a homecoming to some degree for the author to the big screen following a lot more work in the realm of television for the past few years. Yet even with that knowledge in mind, I definitely think it is a wonderful homecoming due to the fact that Mikael Hafstrom has managed to conjure up one of the most thrilling film rides in a while. Indeed the narrative may not be the most comprehensive in the world, and it might not always be the easiest thing to understand yet I don’t think that should take away from how potent the movie truly is. Indeed not since Norman Bates and his vindictive mother terrorized guests at their motel has a paying customer received such horrific treatment during a night’s lodging and not gotten at least a free night’s stay as compensation for their troubles. Indeed even though this film is leaps and bounds more psychological than horror of a visceral nature, 1408 still manages to provide the viewer with a fairly good amount of terror and chills plus it’s also worth pointing out that if you are a lover of soft rock from the 70’s then you will most certainly never ever look at “We’ve Only Just Begun” by The Carpenters the same way again. Indeed 1408 is most certainly the stuff that nightmares that are truly made of and one ride of terror that you won’t soon forget….

The plot is as follows: Mike Enslin used to be an author with a lot of promise and potential until life threw him quite the tragic curveball. Since then however, Enslin mostly just uses his time and talents in the endeavor of penning guilty pleasure and pulpy books about the paranormal and hauntings all over the world. A feat that takes the form of him staying the night at locations that are allegedly haunted, acquiring some unique Intel that he can use in the books, and then heads on to the next assignment. One day while going through his mail however, Mike finds himself the recipient of a postcard from a hotel in N.Y.C known as the Dolphin Hotel that allegedly has a room that has had quite the supernatural going-on’s to say the least. Upon digging further, Mike proceeds to discover that the Dolphin does in fact have quite the storied past of demise and mayhem particularly in Room 1408. Undeterred however, Mike decides to take on the room, despite the grave reservations and words of caution courtesy of the hotel manager. Upon arriving in the infamous room, nothing seems particularly out of the ordinary…..at first. It isn’t long thereafter however that the room horrifically proceeds to come alive and begins to terrorize Enslin with a wide variety of spooky appearances by the deceased guests, showcases of torturous moments from his life, and psychological deceptions thus turning this one-night stay into a nightmare that Enslin will never ever forget…..

Now 1408 is the second thriller set around a hotel released in the year 2007 (the other being the Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale-starrer Vacancy) yet I feel that is far and away the better film. Indeed this is a movie which excels at subtly both unnerving and terrorizing the heck out of audiences in equal measure. Indeed instead of assaulting their target audience with both special effects as well as blood and gore, this film manages to chill you down to your spine and scare you in a way that is a lot more psychological in nature. Indeed this movie’s screenplay intelligently decides not to even try and explain the monster that is Room 1408. Indeed it just plain and simply seems to be a quite horrifying entity that has the power to look into a troubled person, and then psychologically torture them to death with ghosts from their past. Indeed in the hands of a lesser filmmaking team, this is stuff that honestly could have been completely terrible. Yet even though this movie threatens to cross over into the world of disbelief, it quite astonishingly manages to stay grounded and relatable.

Now quite a bit of the reason for how the film is able to accomplish this feat is due to the fact that this movie manages to not once lose sight of what kind of film it is in the world of horror and then attempt to toss in way too many jump scares as well as special effects. Rather, the movie chooses to make the human component that is Mike Enslin front and center for both the narrative as well as the terror. Indeed this is a film which is constructed around the idea that Enslin literally finds himself not only being pushed into facing his individual regrets for as long as he chooses to stay an occupant in the room, but also having to keep his psyche together due to being bombarded by an assortment of hellish illusions. Indeed it really makes for a lot more potent viewing than the usual horror schtick and it also not for a minute ever gets beaten over the audience’s head or becomes moralizing in any way. Indeed this is truly a difficult task to pull off. In fact the moment that this room straight outta hell started to showcase our main character things from his past, I started to get a little edgy because I thought the film was about to start beating up the audience with the morality stick. Thankfully this film never does that and instead chooses to stay both creepy and unnerving through and through.

Now at the very heart of this trip through madness is John Cusack who finds himself having to lift at least 95% of this movie by himself. That’s because this is, for all intents and purposes, a one-man circus for the majority of the movie’s runtime, with only passing glimpses of spirits being his more consistent compatriots in this. Indeed Cusack has for a while been one of my favorite actors, and suffice it to say this is one of his better efforts as of late. Indeed not only does he have to bear this film on his shoulders, but he also has to make you believe that his character is losing his marbles without once making it seem like a parody or actually losing his marbles period. Indeed even though any performer knows that insanity is a very complicated thing to pull off, Cusack manages to find that proverbial balance and manages to provide a very realistic performance throughout the film. Also doing a decent job in this is Samuel L. Jackson in a tiny, but still quite significant turn as the hotel manager who desperately tries everything under the sun to get Enslin to stay anywhere else in the hotel, but the titular room. Speaking of….it should also be noted that Room 1408 is a key character in and out of itself. Indeed this is due to how the room is constantly in a state of terror-fueled evolution thus developing a truly unnerving ambience that is seemingly never-ending in its weirdness, but not to the point that an audience would ever have their ability to believe this room is the epitome of evil truly negated.

All in all 1408 manages to work on a level that quite a few other horror films have been unable to. This is because this film does not deal with paranormal entities leaping out and scaring the cast, and audience, or hiding in the shadows. Rather this is a film which burrows a lot deeper to find its scares and as such becomes a much more potent horror film as a result. Yet while you could make the argument that this film does lose some potency when you work some logic into the narrative, I would just like to ask how in the world you could begin to apply logic to a story of a diabolical hotel room that drives you insane by showing your deepest regrets and darkest fears? Thus by the time the credits begin to roll, 1408 has managed to become a showcase of just what power a horror film can truly have. Indeed they can do more than chill us; rather they can also leave an audience completely spellbound and also laughing in equal measure. Yet the biggest shock of all is the aspect that this movie is able to do all of this is the fact that not a lot of other scary movies truly can. On a scale of 1-5 I give 1408 a 3.5 out of 5.

Once again this is normally where the trailer would be, but upon further review it has been determined that there are spoilers within it that could be detrimental to your overall enjoyment of the movie; therefore I will not be putting the trailer here. Thank you all for your love and support, and we hope you’re staying safe and healthy during this rough time! Ag