Monday, January 13, 2014

#1,246. 1408 (2007)

Directed By: Mikael Håfström

Starring: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Mary McCormack

Tag line: "No one lasts more than an hour"

Trivia: The axe the fireman uses to break down the hotel door at the end is the exact same axe Jack Nicholson used in The Shining

Based on a Stephen King short story, 1408 features some damn creepy scenes and a convincing performance by John Cusack, who plays Mike Enslin (John Cusack), a writer who has dedicated his life to investigating haunted locations. Thus far, his research has turned up nothing supernatural, but that all changes the moment he walks into room 1408 of New York’s Dolphin Hotel, reputedly one of the most haunted locales in the entire country.

It’s so bad, in fact, that Enslin’s initial attempts to book the room were denied. When he threatened legal action, the Dolphin had no choice but to allow him to check into 1408, yet not before hotel manager Gerald Odin (Samuel L. Jackson) tried one last time to talk Enslin out of staying in the accursed room. According to Odin, more than 50 people have died in 1408, and what’s more, those who check in usually don’t stay for more than an hour. Determined to learn the truth, a skeptical Enslin signs the register and makes his way to the 14th floor, kicking off an evening of terror unlike any he’s faced before.

1408 does a fine job building up anticipation. The scene with Samuel L. Jackson’s somewhat morbid hotel manager, who practically begs Enslin to rethink his decision, sets the perfect tone for what’s to follow, and later in the movie, when all hell is breaking loose, we can’t help but think Enslin should have heeded this warning. And when I say “all hell breaking loose”, that’s exactly what I mean, with Enslin experiencing everything from a clock radio that plays nothing but The Carpenters to ghostly visions of 1408’s past victims. One of the film’s most spine-tingling scenes has Enslin, who desperately wants out of 1408, trying to get the attention of the guy in the hotel across the street, only to discover it’s a mirror image of himself (and that he’s not alone in the room)! Cusack does a good job as the cynical writer in search of the supernatural, and as the movie plays out, we learn about his character’s troubled past, including why he’s so anxious to meet up with a ghost.

Where 1408 stumbles is in its conclusion, which, without going into spoilers, confused the hell out of me the first time I saw it (a second viewing did clear things up a bit). Fortunately, it doesn’t detract from the rest of the film. If you like a good ghost story, then check into 1408 and enjoy the ride.

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