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 moments 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 hasn't turned up anything legitimately supernatural. That all changes the moment he walks into room 1408 of New York’s Dolphin Hotel, reputedly one of the most haunted spots in the entire country!

It’s so bad, in fact, that Enslin’s initial attempt to book the room was denied. When he threatened legal action, the Dolphin had no choice but to allow him to reserve a stay in 1408, yet not before hotel manager Gerald Odin (Samuel L. Jackson) tried one last time to talk Enslin out of it. According to Odin, more than 50 people have died in 1408, and those lucky enough to survive didn't stay in the room for more than an hour. 

Determined to uncover 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 has experienced before.

With the early scenes in 1408, director Mikael Håfström does a fine job building up our expectations. The brief sequence featuring Samuel L. Jackson’s somewhat morbid hotel manager, who practically begs Enslin to rethink his decision, sets the perfect tone for what follows. Later in the movie, when all hell is breaking loose, we can’t help but think that Enslin should have heeded this advice. 

And when I say “all hell breaking loose”, that’s exactly what I mean! Enslin encounters 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 is a mirror image of himself (and that he’s not alone in the room). Cusack does a good job as the cynical writer, and as the story plays out, we learn a few things about his character’s troubled past, including why he is so anxious to meet up with a ghost.

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

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