Do not stay in Room 1408… Would that I followed Samuel L. Jackson’s advice. If I had, I wouldn’t be seeing ghostly images every time I close my eyes or walk into a dark room. Before I delve into more details, let me just get it out of the way now. 1408 is a fantastic Haunted House movie. Is it perfect? No, but it comes darn close. Are there other horror films that affected me more? Perhaps, indeed, The Exorcist still makes me sleep with the lights on for the following 24 hours. However, when it comes to the very difficult Haunted House sub-genre, 1408 nails it.
So, why did I like it so much…?
To put it bluntly, 1408 succeeds where so many other “things that go bump in the night” movies fail. Out of all the subjects within the horror genre, the traditional Haunted House tale is the most difficult. It is interesting to note that John Cusack’s character, Mike Enslin, all but admits to this fact within the first 10 minutes of 1408. A good Haunted House movie is all about the set-up. The slow draw into a world that is both completely alien and so terribly familiar. 1408 wastes no time in preparing the audience for the genuine chills to come. The film quite literally opens on a dark and stormy night. Clich?? Absolutely, but it is a welcomed one… When you willing enter a film like 1408, you are allowing yourself to enter this gothic world… The nights will always be stormy, the road will always be lonely, and the doors will always creak.
1408 gives you all that you expect, yet still surprises.
I realize I’ve yet to give you much in terms of story. Well, to be blunt, you’ve seen it. If not in hundreds of classic stories, then at least in the trailer. Mike Enslin is a bitter author with a tragic past. He now wastes his once promising talent on dime-store grade “spookalogues”. (Books I will admit to having more than a passing obsession). After one more lackluster investigation, Mike Enslin receives a cryptic postcard for the Dolphin Hotel with a single message: “Don’t enter 1408“. Of course, our hero is intrigued if still cynical.
A credit goes to Stephen King as he makes his character point out the numerological significance of 1408 the instant the postcard arrives, thus avoiding astute audience members from rolling their eyes. Again, an expected clich? is turned ever so slightly on its ear. Just enough to keep the audience off balance. Our hero walks into the hotel, he receives a stern and genuine warning from the staff not to stay in 1408. Still, he enters… Things go badly… The end. Wait, isn’t there more? Well, of course there is more, however to divulge anymore would rob you of the experience of 1408. Like a good Haunted House (movie or attraction), you don’t enter for the ending… It is seeing what is around the next corner… The next bleak room… The next endless hallway…
1408 is more than cheap spook effects.
There is not a single weak performance in 1408, granted, there aren’t many roles. A huge credit to 1408‘s success rests solely on John Cusack’s shoulders. He is on screen for no less than 88 minutes of a 94-minute film, most of which he is alone talking to himself or his trusty tape-recorder. Never once do you doubt the events happening in room 1408. Cusack pulls you in fully and completely. You are there with him when spirits torment him. You are in his head as his very sanity begins to rebel. When John Cusack feels pain, the audience feels pain. (And trust me; there are some seriously painful moments in 1408, both physically and emotionally). Although given more prominence in the trailer, Samuel L. Jackson has a relatively small part. However, his role in the film is key and is a perfect foil to Cusacks bitter author. This is not the wisecracking Jackson most fans adore. This is a calm and dignified man who does not believe in the paranormal…but knows in his heart that room 1408 is an evil place. A place no one should ever enter alone.
How does it look and sound?
Well, for those horror fans wishing for a gore fest or a CGI spirit running amuck, you are going to be sorely disappointed. However, the horror fans that miss the days of the original The Haunting or The Changeling, you are in for a real treat. With the exception of some small augmenting, all the effect in 1408 are practical. The sprits in 1408 are real entities interacting with Mike Enslin. If you see it on the screen, Cusack saw it on the set. (With a couple very small, but obvious exceptions). The sounds in 1408 are characters unto themselves. Periods of sanity shattering silence that are intercut with sounds that make you wonder what the person next to you is doing. Many times throughout 1408, I caught myself looking around… Was that the movie or someone behind me whimpering? To be honest, I don’t know… nor do I want to know…
1408 is the best scare I’ve had in a theater in a good long time. Sure, there have been some fun horror flicks in the past couple years, but not since The Descent have I been honestly unnerved by a film. 1408 flat out messes with you. It finds the rare balance between fear and that most elusive of emotions… Dread. You just don’t know what that damnable room is going to do next. In a summer of boring sequels and video game effects, it is great to see a film that provides the audience with classic scares and strong performances.
GeekintheCity gives 1408 4.5 out of 5 Critical Hits.