As creepfests go,1408is right up there withThe Shining, also inspired by a Stephen King work and featuring a menacing hotel and the wobbly sanity of a writer lodging there. "It's an evil [bleep]-ing room!" intones Samuel L. Jackson, who plays the smooth … see full wiki
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 'haunts' across America, spending the night in haunted hotels to debunk the supposed ghostly experience. He's a professional cynic -- a writer who believes in what he can see, not what he's been told -- and he's out to prove, essentially, that there's no such thing as an afterlife. After receiving a bump on the head from a surfing accident, Enslin receives a mysterious postcard from an anonymous fan warning him to avoid staying in Room 1408 of the upscale Dolphin Hotel. Intrigued moreso with the opportunity to debunk yet one more contemporary urban myth, he immediately books the room for one night ... and what a night it turns out to be.
1408 (the room, not the movie) is occupied (not only with weary travelers, but also something far more ominous): 1408 is evil itself, receiving its marching orders from the deepest, darkest fears of the boarders themselves. At first, the room greets Enslin with precisely the antics anyone would expect -- weird noises, weird appearances, and other general weirdness ... but, before his stay is over, evil itself will have looked deep into the writer's heart and soul, bringing to the surface only those memories that can crack an already fragile human psyche.
Where the film excels is the performance of John Cusack. As Mike Enslin, he embodies the writer with a sense of curiosity coupled with hints of disbelief. Cusack's scenes with Samuel L Jackson (the hotel's manager, who primarily serves to set-up the history of the legendary room, no doubt 'sounding' like John Cusack's inner voice at a time when the writer truly believed in what he was reporting) are brilliant; they perfectly draw Enslin (and the viewer) deeper and deeper into the mystery of the Dolphin Hotel, and the verbal banter shows how well Cusack holds his ground as an actor against his learned peers.
Where the film fails (or stumbles, at least) is what I stated in my lead paragraph: once you know what you're dealing with -- that the room is evil, that its peeling back the layers of Enslin's life and darkest tragedies -- at what point can the viewer believe in what he's seeing? The crux of any good ghost story is maintaining the level of interest for the viewer. Things that go bump in the night are only scary for so long, but 1408 is about things that go bump in the M-I-N-D, events that alter one's life, events that inspire despair and longing instead of enforcing hope and humanity. While Cusack's performance lifts the film higher than the typical spook tale, I personally (and it's always a matter of taste) didn't find the story to be a fitting counterpoint. It's a good entry into a rarely effectively explored sub-genre of the ghost story; on that point, the film's worth a viewing.
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