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1408 movie poster

1408 Movie Review

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John Cusack goes it alone in 1408, a movie where he is pretty much the only one on screen for all but a few minutes at the beginning and end. The result is a surprisingly good but not magnificent adaptation of a Stephen King novella, but when it comes to King adaptations, good ones are hard to come by.

Cusack plays Mike Enslin, a rather bitter ghost hunter who has spent the last several years of his life writing stories about haunted places around the world, a result of his subconscious quest to find proof that when his young daughter died, she didn't just crumble into dust. Up until now, he hasn't seen a single ounce of proof of the after life; that is, until he enters room 1408 in a prestigious New York hotel and becomes trapped in his own personal hell. Ignoring the threat of death from the manager of the hotel (Samuel L. Jackson) and the history of the room - 57 unnatural and natural deaths and countless more injuries - he decides to spend the night, but will he even last an hour?

While 1408 is a horror movie, it is not your typical horror movie, at least not by today's standards. In a day and age where gore and torture rule, 1408 is a nice throwback to stories of old, where there is minimal gore (Cusack does get a bloody hand) and it relies on a good story to keep you on the edge of your seat, rather than one shock after another. 1408 is not a particularly scary movie, but it isn't trying to be; instead, director Mikael Håfström has taken a screenplay from Matt Greenberg and Scott Alexander and developed a story about a man's spiral into uncertain paranoia and insanity. We get to watch as the main character falls victim to the room's curse and starts going crazy (whether he is actually going crazy or not is up for debate). He is bombarded by the ghosts of those who have died there in the past, as well as his own personal nightmares. In other words, it is what you would expect from a Stephen King story.

The movie has been compared to The Shining, which is probably not a fair comparison to make. 1408 is about a man's descent into Hell, but unlike The Shining, where the movie dealt with these issues while still providing the audience with a more physical story (Jack Nicholson goes crazy, but takes it out on his family), the only one Cusack can hurt is himself. As a result, the movie isn't nearly as scary, threatening or exciting as The Shining, but it still works. Cusack is pretty good in the role, as he quickly goes from skeptic to believer to madman and back again.

1408 does get a bit tedious near the end, as the hallucinations become more extreme to the point where things are less psychologically intriguing. At a certain point, I was just hoping the movie was going to end, not because I wasn't finding it entertaining, but because you knew it had nothing particularly new to offer in terms of hallucinations. Nevertheless, when the film does end, it ends in a very good way, which makes the movie well worth it.

1408 is not a perfect movie, but as Stephen King adaptations go, it is up there among the best. Cusack turns in a good performance and the movie, while not explicitly scary, is convincingly eerie in its own psychological way. This is definitely one of the better horror movies of the year.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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