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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 William Goss

"Panic Room"
4 stars

Let’s face it: when hotel manager Samuel L. Jackson implores to you that room 1408 is “an evil fuckin’ room,” you best turn tail and leave. No, now, right now. However, while that course of action may faze you or I, it only goads Mike Enslin (John Cusack), debunker of hauntings and the like, into checking in to check it out. So what if fifty-six of the room’s prior occupants perished? So what if none lasted more than an hour? In all his travels, Mike has yet to encounter a ghoulie or ghostie, and he’ll be damned in the Dolphin Hotel is going to break his streak.

And damned, he most certainly is, as both the room’s specters and his own demons come back to haunt him in the seemingly inescapable room, and entertained, we most certainly are, as star Cusack and director Mikael Håfström (the loathsome Derailed) induce an moderately macabre atmosphere that proves plenty effective at the giving of goosebumps. Håfström does settle for some easy jumps early on for the squealers in the house, as Enslin finds himself contending with high heights, icky insects, and even the Carpenters (shudder), but eventually, the room employs increasingly abstract tactics towards unnerving Mike as he attempts to “Encyclopedia Brown this bitch.”

Save for a particularly smirk-inducing tête-à-tête between Cusack and Jackson (making good on his limited screen time) and the occasional communiqué with estranged wife Mary McCormack (doing what little she can), the former finds himself all but left to his own devices – quite literally, unloading his skeptical nature and cynical observations into his trusty tape recorder as the supernatural shenanigans unfold. Although it could have settled for being a more simplistic spooker, 1408 ends up reaching for a dead daughter subplot notably absent from the Stephen King short story on which this is based, and it’s Cusack alone that keeps this portion from tumbling into a mess of schlock and awwwww, providing a considerable emotional heft to a second half where the sentimental threatens to doom, not just Mike, but us all to hell.

However, even when the proceedings aren’t exactly creepy, they’re rarely less than compelling, and it’s ultimately because of Enslin’s human flaws that we can forgive the script’s narrative ones. Rather, the story only stumbles when a protracted false ending nearly takes one out of it, and it’s that much more to Cusack’s credit that he keeps us in, and while the first half may lead us to believe that the story deserves a darker denouement, the second half still earns its actual conclusion, because he’s the one to sell us on it.

For a mainstream horror flick, Håfström and company get credit for aiming towards the psychologically tense end of things, even if they fill in more blanks than they ought to, and for a mainstream horror flick, Cusack gets credit for holding a whole lot of potential hokum at bay with a surprisingly effective – and maybe even affecting – blend of humor and heart amidst the horror.

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originally posted: 07/03/07 16:37:17
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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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