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1408... From A Sample of How to Write to a Full Blown Movie!

  • Dec 30, 2009
Of all of the Stephen King adaptations out there, the existence of 1408 probably has one of the most interesting stories.  The story itself can be found in a collection of short stories called "Everything's Eventual."  The story is often considered one of King's scariest and creepiest.  It is a more psychological kind of horror than it is one of slashers and mad killers.  These tend to be the kind that entice me more.  Many horror movies nowadays are what are often referred to as "Torture Porn."  Those would be movies like Saw and Hostel... where the purpose of those movies is to delight people by showing a lot of death befall the characters.  In a way, those kinds of movies sort of made horror less fun for me.  I don't go to watch horror movies to see people die, if truth be told.  What scares me most has always been wondering how characters will escape and deal with the situations they're in.  The ones that have often scared me the most, or picked at me the most, were the ones where I desperately wanted to see a character survive.  Severed heads doesn't scare me.  It was always the movies where as I watching I wanted to scream "Don't go in there!" that scared me.  1408 gets back to that in a way.  It beats the hell out of watching the next crappy Saw movie (even the first one didn't entice me much).  The fear bone, like the funny bone, however, is located in different places on different people.  1408 isn't scary, but it plays on suspense more so than anything else.  Alfred Hitchcock famously described suspense as when the movie goer knows what is going to happen next, they just wonder how the characters will cope with the situation they're in.  This is what 1408 does.

First, a little trivia.  In 2000 Stephen King published a book called On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.  Within it he put in a little sample piece which at first was simply called "The Hotel Story."  It was just a way to show how a story goes from first draft to second draft.  Within On Writing, he showed the original manuscript marked up.  First we were given a plain write up, and then when we flipped the page we were shown how Stephen King goes about revising.  It went from being "The Hotel Story" (for obvious reasons that if you can't figure out you probably had a piece of your brain cut out as a child) to being called "1408."  The main character, Mike Enslin was originally named Mike Ostermeyer which King changed because it was a mouthful.  Yet the most interesting aspect of it all is that King never intended to finish the story.  It was meant to be an example of how to revise ones work rather than to be finished.  Except King himself found that he wanted to finish it because he wanted to know just how Mike's tale would end.  What lurks in room 1408?  What makes it, as Samual L. Jackson so eloquently put it in the film, "A bad fucking room?"

The story was published as an audiobook in a compilation called "Blood and Smoke," and eventually found its way into the short story collection, "Everything's Eventual."  In recent memory it has gone on to become one of King's most popular short stories.  When a movie adaptation was announced, I was't surprised.  Yet I kept asking myself how exactly they would do it?  In the first place the short story just didn't seem to have enough in it to justify a full length film.  If it were adapted into an episode of The Twilight Zone or Featured on Showtimes "Masters of Horror" series it might've made more sense.  But a full blown movie that was nearly two hours long?  Obviously there was going to be a lot in there that wasn't in the short story at all.

I'm not one who really cares much for whether or not a movie based on the book or any other mediums stays true to its work.  I wasn't bothered by Kubrick's adaptation of The Shining (or any other adaptation Kubrick made... he's never been one to really stick to the source material, though).  I've always held this idea that if one is looking for the book he ought to quit bitching about the movie being different and read the damn book!  Just the same I like to mention, at the request of those who ask, whether or not the movie follows the original source.  And I can tell you that 1408 does follow the original story fairly well... but it adds an entire new subplot and a bit more zaniness (that's right, it adds MORE zaniness... and this is Stephen King!).  Mostly because it takes a moment to flesh out some things that King didn't really touch upon.  Also because I'm assuming they needed to get some actual movie length out of it.  If you're a purist of the original story, you've probably plopped yourself down prepared to hate it already as it is.  An adaptation isn't just about being closed to the book, it's also about a flim maker's chance to give you his or her interpretation of the book as well.  If this weren't true Chris Columbus would be an awesome director (he's not).

John Cussack plays Mike Enslin.  A man who has made his living off of writing books debunking the mysteries of the supernatural at certain locations.  He's a skeptic.  He doesn't believe in anything.  At least nothing imperical that he can't see with his own eyes.  His marriage fell apart after his daughter passed away and he's been on his own eversince.  After debunking a mystery he goes to his PO Box where he receives a post card which talks about a haunted room at the Dolphin Hotel in New York City.  1408.  Mike's first instinct is to look at the numbers and add them up.  They equal 13.  "Cute," he muses.  And throughout the movie there are many instances of the number 13. 

When he calls to make a reservation at the hotel, however, they tell him the room is booked.  Mike throws out several dates only to be told the same thing time and time again, that it's unavailable.  Mike decides to take legal action and discovers that it is illegal for the hotel to deny him the room if he requested it and it's available.  Even when he gets there, however, Mr. Olin (played by Samual L. Jackson) is there to try to convince him to reconsider.  It's no deal, and Mike stays in the room.  Everything seems humble enough.  He spends a lot of time criticizing the room he's in and then takes a brief moment to talk about how hotel rooms are creepy places to begin with (almost word for word the same introduction King wrote for the short story in 2002).  Pretty soon, though, the radio begins to blare with the song, "We've Only Just Begun," and before he knows it the numbers change to 60:00.  And they begin to count down.  Mike Enslin is about to spend an hour in hell as the hotel room plays tricks on his mind and shows him things.  And Mike will discover that during this hour, there is absolutely no escape.  Sometimes things that go bump in the night, Mike will soon discover, are very real.

If suspense is your thing, 1408 is a movie you should watch.  As Mike spends time in the Hotel room we're left to wonder just how he'll get out and whether or not he'll survive the perils.  The film also throws in a subplot in which part of the tricks the room uses to mess with him is his own daughter who has passed away (no, for those wondering, the daughter wasn't in the original short story, but it certainly adds a lot of depth to Mike's character).  It's amusing, to say the least.  The movie itself is around 105 minutes long but it's not too long or too short.  Much of that time is spent playing tricks on your mind and Mike's including an incredible twist at the end.

It's a good thing John Cusack is a good actor.  Very few movies can get away with spending so much time in one place (the only two which come to mind immediately are "Dial M for Murder" and "Rear Window" both of which are directed by Alfred Hitchcock), but 1408 does because it keeps the ball rolling and escalates things very well.  Just when you believe things can't get any worse for Mike Enslin, they do.  All of this amounts to a movie that can really play with your mind, but will also make you concerned about the main character's well being.  John Cusack carries the movie and does a good job.  Despite Samual L. Jackson showing up for only fifteen minutes he still manages to be someone you don't easily forget.  

Of course, because of its brand of horror, it isn't for everyone.  If you're the type who thrives on violence and such, and B-Movie Horror fanatics, 1408 isn't really going to give you that.  In fact, the movie really isn't that violent at all, nor is there a lot of bloodshed.  When it came out in 2007 this made it a very different kind of horror movie at the moment because it wasn't some stupid Americanized version of a Japanese horror film... and it wasn't torture porn either.  Rather it was a mystery/suspense and horror film that for the most part, played more on the ability to play mind tricks (mostly illusions, if you will) rather than relying on pop-out gags or extreme violence.  It's inviting to those who who don't normally go for horror but in some ways can push people who love the genre away because it is, in a word, more tame than the likes of several horror movies you see today. 

In a moment where Americanized Versions of Japanese Horror films and Torture Porn were much more popular (as well as remakes of past horror exploits) 1408 was like a breath of fresh air.

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January 14, 2010
I like Cusack, but King usually leaves me cold. This one was entertaining enough but several months later I couldn't really remember much about it.
January 01, 2010
I didn't exactly love this one but I thought at the time, it was one of the better horror movies. I liked Cusack's performance in this reactionary role; script gave a few surprises and good thrills. Not too shabby. Nice review, Sean, Happy New Year!!
December 30, 2009
I loved this movie it is one of my all time favorite horror films. It was so original and shocking it just felt real in some ways. Good review.
More 1408 (2007 movie) reviews
review by . November 19, 2010
The chief problem with all of 1408 remains the chief problem with most 'ghost'-based films: once you're absolutely certain that you're dealing with a ghost/spirit/evil-presence, etc., how much longer CAN you suspend your disbelief?      Based on a Stephen King short story (could you possibly have been expecting a happy ending?), 1408 revolves around a faithless paranormal author Mike Enslin, played perfectly by John Cusack. Enslin writes books about the alleged …
Quick Tip by . January 09, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
This movie isnt quite as scary as everyone said it was but it was a major mind trip. I really liked it especially the ending!
review by . December 30, 2009
Enter 1408 at your own risk....
Horror like action films and romantic Comedies has fallen prey to the disease that is formula. There hasn't been a full blown, original horror film in a long time. But now I have faith the genre can be saved thanks to a film called, 1408.                  1408 is a notch above the regular horror films It doesn't use overt use of gore and blood to tell it's story or to shock and scare you. Instead it use the basic techniques horror films …
review by . September 01, 2009
Pros: Good creep-out factor, Cusack has skills, cinematography     Cons: Slightly predictable in some respects     The Bottom Line: A solid film of supernatural horror.     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. It seems like once in a blue moon, I decide to let myself see a scary movie.  Normally, I don't do well with scary movies.  I've pretty much mastered my fear of the dark, but I still …
review by . February 06, 2009
've always appreciated the differences between psychological "horror" films and slasher horror films. It always tends to be the psychological ones the freak me the hell out. Then, I tend to laugh at films like The Exorcist. But films like 1408 and The Exorcism of Emily Rose always freak me out.    John Cussack has never been one of my favorite actors and he wasn't my favorite in this, but he managed to play the character, which was a depressed alcoholic "scariest places" author. …
review by . March 06, 2009
I was pleasantly surprised or should I say scared by this incredibly creepy film! This is one of the best screen adaptations of a King novel to a movie since The Shining.       John Cusak is a myth debunker who spends the night at places that are reputedly haunted and then writes books about his non-eventful night. He is warned not to stay in room 1408 at the New York Dophin. Of course he then insists on staying there and no amount of persuasion can stop him. Even documented …
review by . February 06, 2009
This is a creepy, scary movie.      It wisely starts off by setting up the main character, and making it clear that he's pretty bored with going to so-called haunted hotel rooms and finding nothing. Apparently writing about having seen no ghosts doesn't sell many books, either, which may explain why there are so many authors that apparently see them, and not many that don't.      After the initial setup, which was very well paced, there is the (basically) …
review by . October 31, 2008
Mike Enslin (John Cusack) writes "horror" guides to haunted places. With several books under his belt, he's become numb to the supposedly haunted surroundings he puts himself into. Until he hears about room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel in New York City. In order to check into room 1408, Mike must get his attorney involved, regarding some blue law that if the room requested is unoccupied it must be rented upon request. It's the only way Mr. Olin (Samuel Jackson), manager of the Dolphin, will rent the …
review by . October 14, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Tense, startling, disturbing with flashes of humor      Cons: Horror, like Humor, is very subjective... not everyone has the same buttons. This work's biggest downfall is it's predictability.      The Bottom Line: Just in time for Halloween, "1408" is filled with devilish delights for all the eager boys and ghouls.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot. I just Love what …
review by . December 25, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
This is a creepy, scary movie.     It wisely starts off by setting up the main character, and making it clear that he's pretty bored with going to so-called haunted hotel rooms and finding nothing. Apparently writing about having seen no ghosts doesn't sell many books, either, which may explain why there are so many authors that apparently see them, and not many that don't.    After the initial setup, which was very well paced, there is the (basically) one …
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Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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The PG-13 rating given to 1408 belies this film's truly terrifying effects on its audience. Though it's far less gory than its peers, it has frightening moments and a creepy mood throughout. John Cusack (IDENTITY) plays Mike Enslin, a gifted writer who has turned his talents to paranormal travel books. His stays in haunted hotels never shake him, but he's intrigued by New York's Dolphin Hotel. Room 1408 has been the site of dozens of deaths, and this is a selling point for the skeptic in Mike. Despite the warnings of the hotel manager (Samuel L. Jackson, BLACK SNAKE MOAN), Mike resolves to stay in the haunted room. No one has lasted more than an hour in 1408, and Mike has his work cut out for him. <br> <br> Though Cusack got his acting pedigree in comedies, he proves he's able to adeptly carry a horror film. He's in practically every frame of the film, often alone, and he's great at making the audience share in his fear. This is the second English-language film from director Mikael Hafstrom (DERAILED), ...

Starring John Cusack, Tony Shalhoub, Samual L. Jackson
Directed by Mikael Hafstrom
Writer: Matt Greenberg, Scott Alexander
Based on a short story by Stephen King
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Director: Mikael Håfström
Genre: Horror
Release Date: June 22, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: Weinstein Company/Genius (October 02, 2007)
Studio: Dimension Films, Weinstein Company
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