1 hour, 34 minutes
PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned.
for thematic material including disturbing sequences of violence and terror, frightening images and language
DVD Features: John Cusak on 1408; Inside Room 1408; Theatrical trailer; Languages: English Dolby 5.1; French Dolby 5.1; Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish.
John Cusack ... Mike Enslin
Mary McCormack ... Lily Enslin
Jasmine Jessica Anthony ... Katie
Tony Shalhoub ... Sam Farrell
Emily Harvey ... Secretary
Noah Lee Margetts ... Bellboy Noah
Samuel L. Jackson ... Gerald Olin
Based on the short story by Stephen King, this is a slick psychological thriller as well as a good old-fashioned ghost story with some fiendishly clever twists.
John Cusack ("High Fidelity") plays Mike Enslin, a cynical novelist and writer of guides to haunted houses and graveyards around the world. The twist, the first of many, is that he himself doesn’t buy into all this paranormal stuff, though he doesn’t let his readers know that. As far as he’s concerned, there’s always a logical explanation, even if it isn’t always apparent at first. And he’s constantly searching, which might just be a quest to prove to himself that his dead daughter may be still existing in the hereafter. All that is about to change.
One day in the mail, among the usual brochures for supposedly haunted places, is an intriguing card from the Dolphin Hotel in New York City. It simply states “Don’t stay in room 1408.” Mike tries booking the room and is told it is not available - ever, and then the phone goes dead. When Mike tells his publisher (Tony Shaloub - TV's "Monk") about it, they get a lawyer involved. The lawyer invokes a civil rights case and gets Mike the room reservation. When Mike arrives, the hotel manager (Samuel L. Jackson "Snakes on a Plane") tries to dissuade him from staying in that room, offering an upgrade to a penthouse, an expensive bottle of liquor, and shows him newspaper clippings and notes about everyone who’s died in the room since the hotel opened in 1912. 56 deaths have occured in the room despite the fact that no one has stayed in 1408 for the last 11 years. That is mostly because the manager hates having to clean up the mess. Undeterred, and grabbing the liquor and the clippings, Mike checks in and the fun begins.
The film directed by Mikael Hafstrom ("Derailed") takes great care to cover all bases in the logic department. There are reasonable explanations for everything that happens, that may or may not be valid. It’s even made quite clear that no one has stayed more than an hour in that room and lived to tell about it. The terror builds slowly: strange noises, a thermostat that plays tricks, a window that may or may not have smacked his hand, a chocolate on a pillow that shouldn’t be there, and the hotel's engineer who won’t set foot in the room. Then there's the radio that plays all by itself (the Carpenter’s hit “We’ve Only Just Begun”) adding its own warning as a countdown from 60 minutes begins. Hafstrom creates a perfect set-up for Mike’s battle with the room that he's determined to win.
At first, Mike attempts to allay his fears by continuously speaking into his tape recorder, but by the time he decides to flee, the room has him trapped. Plus, this room is more than just evil, it begins to read his mind as his past is reviewed before his eyes, including glimpses of the time before his daughter death and his relationship with his wife fell apart.
In what is essentially a solo performance, John Cusack rides an emotional roller-coaster as he begins to lose his grip on reality. He slips effortlessly from hard-bitten cynic, to worried doubter, to full-scale panic without losing the genuine sense of his own self-loathing. His performance may well win him myriad award nominations come year's end. While there's little blood and guts, there's tension aplenty in 1408, lots of shocks, and several false endings, which make the whole thriller even more intense.