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1408 (2007)

  Tags: 1408, based on short story, ghosts, haunting, John Cusack, Mary McCormack, Mikael Hafstrom, Samuel L. Jackson, Stephen King, Tony Shalhoub

Your rating: None Average: 6.4 (7 votes)
Reviewer Rating: 
7

1408.jpg
Rating #: 
7/10
Director: 
Mikael Håfström
Runtime: 
94 minutes
Cast: 
John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Mary McCormack, Tony Shalhoub


Based on a Stephen King segment in his audio book entitled Blood and Smoke, which was later re-released in written format as part of his Everything's Eventual: 14 Dark Tales compilation, the eventual film was optioned by Dimension Films in '03 and of course, them being slow with almost every project they sink their fingers into, filming didn't actually begin until the Summer of '06, after the cast was set and Kate Walsh (Grey's Anatomy) was replaced by Mary McCormack, when it was revealed to conflict with her shooting schedule for her role in the hit ABC series. The film opened to theaters on June 22nd '07 to high numbers, and making it King's best theatrical debut since 2004's Secret Window (opening at a couple million less). Some say this is his best story-to-film adaptation from a novel since The Shining, and although I don't specifically agree with that comment, it surely is one of his better transformations from book-to-film.

When it was revealed that the film would receive a PG-13 rating, a lot of viewers (myself included) were a little hesitant at the quality of the movie, but of course, it's not necessarily the rating that makes a movie, but it does play a factor with our genre most of the time. Luckily, 1408 isn't a flick that relies on blood and guts, and it's a definite breather from this torture fad that's sweeping the genre lately. I saw the movie with an open mind, despite the rating it received, I found it to be a pretty entertaining watch. It's a refreshing take on the supernatural sub-genre that has since been filled with Asian-influenced, long-haired, pale ghosties. Although I personally didn't find the movie the least bit scary, it did manage to deliver some decent sequences and stuff we haven't specifically seen before. Though, the bleeding walls effect had to be added at one point or another.

I haven't read the short story that this is based on, but from what I've heard, it doesn't differ too much from each other, aside from the sub-plot involving the ex-wife and child, which was obviously added for more substance to the story and give it a longer running time. The premise basically follows John Cusack's character who's an author that loses his faith and belief in all-things spiritual and paranormal after the death of his daughter, and now only believes what he can see with his own two eyes. He gets a few ghost-debunking books published over the years, but fails to really capture many readers or make an impact on the charts. His latest venture involves going from one motel/hotel after another that claim to have a spectral or supernatural occurrence of some sort and debunking them. Naturally, each one he visits turns out to be nothing more than regular motels, with their owners simply giving vacationers a ghost-story in hopes of gathering more visitors.

Then, one day he receives a postcard from a posh place in Manhattan called The Dolphin Hotel, with the words "Don't go into room 1408". Thinking it simply as another place that wants an easy plug in the new book, the author sets forth to the hotel. Once there, he meets hotel manager Sam Jackson, who insists he not stay in the room, claiming that a total of 56 reported deaths, and 22 "natural" unreported deaths have occurred there. This intrigues the author even more, and despite the warnings, gets the room after he discovers that it's against the law to deny a person a room when it's unoccupied. He gets the key, and leaves with the owners last warning that he wouldn't even last an hour in there -- expecting him to die (likely from suicide) within that time. From the moment he sets foot in the room, it seems like any other, but it doesn't take long before things become ominous, especially when the clock on the nightstand starts ticking down from 60-minutes!

Sam Jackson surprisingly didn't have a lot of screen-time in the movie as I expected, as it turns out that most of it just involves Cusack in the room. It's hard to make a film with relatively only one actor and in one setting, but somehow German director Mikael Håfström pulled it off and quite well too; there wasn't a single dull moment for me. Like I said above, there's no gore since it's really just about the room playing mind-games with the lead character, hoping that he'll lose his mind and commit suicide. Speaking of which, another big factor this movie offers that a lot of others in the sub-genre don't is the fact that there's no real spectral here, since the room itself is the villain. The movie's ending was changed after test screeners proved that it would be too much of a "downer," and was changed to appeal to a larger crowed. However, the alternate ending will be seen on the DVD release later this year. In an interesting side-note, the moment he steps foot into the room, to the moment the clock's 60-minutes runs out, an actual hour has passed in the film's running time.

One of the best book-to-film adaptations from a story by Stephen King. I personally didn't find it scary, but it was interesting and original, which kept me glued in the entire running time. Despite it essentially only revolving around one character and in a single location, it never had a dull moment and even surpasses some films in the same supernatural sub-genre. Worth a check.

Posted on April 16, 2012 - 7:10pm | FrighT MasteR

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