Written by Matt Greenberg and Scott Alexander
& Larry Karaszewski
Directed by Mikael Håfström
Running Time: 1:34
for thematic material including
disturbing sequences of violence and terror,
frightening images and language.
1408 turned out to be a pretty solid horror/thriller film, with a couple of different endings that offer two very different points of view.
Mike Enslin is a modern-day ghostbuster. He travels from place to place investigating stories of haunted mansions/hotels and then writing about them. He's become pretty popular and gets invited to many places because people want him to write about them. One day he gets a postcard from the Dolphin Hotel in New York City, with a simple message - don't stay in room 1408. Intrigued, Mike immediately sets out to stay in room 1408. Although he is warned by the manager of the hotel, Mike disregards what he considers to be nothing more than a selling point, and enters the room. What happens after that is something he would have never believed.
I wasn't completely sure what to expect from 1408 when I popped it into the DVD player. I mean, it's basically a movie about a guy in a hotel room, so how scary could it be? But I immediately became engaged in the film from the start, mainly because I enjoy John Cusack (and still believe he is long overdue for an Oscar.) He has a very easygoing, personable way about him, where he can make fun of someone, yet make people feel at ease. The first half-hour of the film sets up the story and follows him as he goes into a supposedly haunted motel room and then takes us to the Dolphin Hotel. We as the audience are already skeptical because Mike is skeptical, but like him, once the manager of the Dolphin (Samuel L. Jackson) starts telling the tales of the hotel, we start to wonder what really is going on. And then the movie really takes off.
Once Mike enters room 1408, the movie becomes what I imagined - a single person in a hotel room. While the room is a rather nice looking suite, it's shot in such a way that we know ever nook and cranny of the room, and feel enclosed from the beginning. So when things start to happen - slowly at first - we feel more and more cramped and claustrophobic. But it's Mike slow descent into his own personal hell that really drives the film. There are few actors, I feel, that could pull off this role so well. Cusack, as I said before, is naturally happy-go-lucky, so as he starts to succumb to the horrors of the room, it feels very real. Here's a guy who has debunked countless ghost stories, but is quickly feeling the effects of this one room. Even as he knows he's falling apart, he can't stop himself from cracking up. And when the room starts to actually attack, we all start to feel helpless. The special effects were done pretty well, and the story was solid enough that if you like Cusack's performance, you'll hang with the film.
The only real problem I had with the film was the ending, but at the same time, I'm not sure if I could ever be satisfied with an ending to this kind of film. You sort of have to accept that the room is the way it is, because if you're waiting for some kind of explanation, you're going to be waiting a while. Stephen King doesn't necessarily give reasons as to why things happen, he just says, this is the way it is, take it or leave it. There are a few scenes towards the end of the film that felt out of place and unnecessary, but for the most part, everything was solid and enjoyable, and at times, scary.
I watched the Two-Disc Collector's Edition of the film, which I would recommend picking up for one major reason. Disc one has the theatrical version, while disc two has an extended director's cut with alternate ending. I watched disc two first, then went back and watched the theatrical ending. Unlike other DVDs that say they have an alternate ending, which usually tends to be the same ending just with an extra scene or two, this one really does have completely different endings. It was nice to see the differences and I felt either one would have worked. One is obviously a little more crowd pleasing while the other is more of a downer, but both end on a chilling scene. But if I had to choose, I think I would have stuck with the theatrical ending. The rest of the extras (which are spread out on both discs) were pretty much what you would expect and don't add a whole lot to the overall enjoyment of the film.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed 1408. It's a below-the-radar horror/thriller (even though it did make $70M theatrically) that is definitely worth watching on DVD.
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