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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.11%
Worth A Look49.21%
Average: 30.16%
Pretty Bad: 7.94%
Total Crap: 1.59%

6 reviews, 27 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"Maybe Less Than 23 - But Over 61 Times Better"
4 stars

During a recent trip to Las Vegas I stayed at the Luxor hotel, the black pyramid with the nightly beam of light that can be viewed from outer space. Part of the hotel’s lore comes from the story of three workers who were killed during the construction, ghosts of whom were believed to be seen during the now defunct river ride passage which encircled the structure. While staying in a room beginning with the numbers 1416, trips down in the elevator frequently stopped at the 13th floor (not once with a single person present) and my last two nights saw my watch mysteriously be two hours behind each morning at 8 AM. Friends of mine were only too eager to share their experiences with hotel phenomenon and there are easily enough to fill an entire Barnes-&-Noble with even the most skeptical of phantom believers. Stephen King already has such wings dedicated to such horror though and while 1408, part of his numerous short story collection, is no Shining, it’s a solid and welcome entry to the kind of begotten supernatural tales all to sparse in contemporary cinema.

Mike Enslin (John Cusack) writes non-fiction books about supposedly haunted places. He doesn’t so much debunk them as report on their history, going so far to spend an evening around the location to see if there’s anything to the local accounts. After houses, castles and graveyards, Enslin is turning his attention to hotels. His P.O. box flooded with brochures, he is amused by the postcard inviting him to New York’s Dolphin Hotel but warning him not to stay in room 1408. Do the math. Further research into the room’s past reveals a number of suicides and the hotel won’t even book him. The hotel’s manager, Mr. Olin (Samuel L. Jackson), does his best to talk Enslin out of it, going so far to offer him subtle bribes and a complete history for his book (including more deaths than originally reported) if he just stays out of that room. “No one has lasted more than an hour,” he says thus establishing maybe the best spook story setup since Alejandro Amenábar’s The Others in 2001.

With trusty tape recorder in hand, Enslin explores the rather bland room. The scariest sight is the price of Beer Nuts. But what’s a good haunting without sounds? And few decibels are more frightening than the dulcet tones of The Carpenters foreboding “We’ve Only Just Begun.” The next 40 minutes is Cusack in a one-man show of enveloping fear as the room begins to play its hand against a man with more demons than he cares to admit.

Such a fantastic setup is almost doomed to find disappointment in what’s to come and 1408 suffers in its lack of revelations. There’s nothing wrong in keeping the origin and motives of the room’s evil to itself, but the screenplay has trouble committing to the deeper psychological underpinnings of the Enslin character. Slowly revealed to have traumatic family relations, we’re still never sold on the possibility that everything is happening in his head even with an early scene so out-of-place it’s destined to make a reappearance just as things as getting interesting. With all the hopped-up drama placed on Enslin’s relationship with his own father are, a major scene encapsulating it falls flat and the subject is dropped. It’s also curious for all the complications involved in keeping the room tidy once a month, it seems as if those sheets really haven’t been changed since the first of the many deaths.

Ruining precisely how things go bump would be spoiling most of the fun of 1408. The usual slamming shut and sudden disquieting aside, 1408 is more creepy than outright scary and much of its success is due to John Cusack’s performance. Praise is long overdue on Cusack as one of our best everyman actors who can convey just enough cynicism and yet still allow an audience to root for him. This is never more evident in the pre-room scenes, particularly those with Jackson, sparring wits with another master of matter-of-fact delivery, but Cusack also sails through the film’s more questionable turns with a command of the situation. For all the additions made to Stephen King’s short story, it’s a shame the screenwriters missed the obvious allegorical connotations to the final decision Enslin is presented with. A stronger metaphor for life in the face of death there could not have been, but I’m satisfied enough with 1408 being a stronger horror film in the face of garbage like Hostel Part II.

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originally posted: 06/22/07 14:00:00
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User Comments

9/12/17 morris campbell a solid spookshow 4 stars
3/08/15 stanley welles a good old fashioned scary movie 3 stars
6/28/14 Quicksilver2477 Brilliant, if you don't get see it again or pick up a book once in awhile. Cusack was great 4 stars
1/22/14 Charles Tatum Nicely done horror pic 4 stars
3/21/11 holly sines was expecting a better ending... 3 stars
11/24/09 RobU Grabbed my attention up until around the mid-point but it goes downhill from there. 3 stars
10/19/09 auzzie chickie good movie... But whats up with the room? 3 stars
1/07/09 mr.mike Good up until its several endings, none of which is really satisfying. 3 stars
5/02/08 Frenzy Stupid movie 2 stars
3/17/08 daveyt Tragic offspring death = disaffected parent story no.697. I want to know about the room!! 2 stars
10/22/07 ALICE Good acting but seen it all before.. 3 stars
10/11/07 mike i'm not really sure wtf I just watched. I think I wasted an hour and a half 1 stars
10/08/07 Crestfall Not bad, Cusack solid as always, but lacking in total interest 3 stars
10/05/07 action movie fan familiar seen it all before=not scary -silly and goes nowhere 2 stars
10/02/07 Rick excellent thriller, focuses much more on suspense than gore 5 stars
7/18/07 Crystal Worst thing I've seen. Nothing made sense 2 stars
7/18/07 damalc i've seen much scarier, but had a really good story 4 stars
6/27/07 Lynn John Cusack rules!! BTW, Brian - you turned me on when you wrote "mind-fuck" 5 stars
6/27/07 Paul Burke Excellent movie. Filled with comic relief. Exquisite ending for such a great thriller. 5 stars
6/25/07 DonnyM Loved it. Would See It Agian. Also kind of funny. 5 stars
6/25/07 Anthony G Brilliant film, best horror movie in years. 5 stars
6/25/07 Chris The sequal probably would be called " Return to 1408 " or " Back to 1408" like that. 4 stars
6/25/07 ahnold Good movie, worth a look and the ending was good too. 4 stars
6/24/07 Ole Man Bourbon Boo!!! The Movie 2 stars
6/24/07 Brian Mckay Fun movie that only occasionally gets too formulaic. Has fair share of creepy mind-fucks 4 stars
6/24/07 Tyrantis An actually good horror movie... zounds. 5 stars
6/23/07 Quigley Very creepy psychological horror film. Ending was kinda lame. Cusack is awesome. 5 stars
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  22-Jun-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 02-Oct-2007

  31-Aug-2007 (15)

  06-Dec-2007 (M)

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