Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I, for one, don’t enjoy the feeling of being scared or frightened. I was a pretty jumpy dude as a child and eventually began to think that this is total bull and decided to find out what it was that scared me and either face up to it and kicks its ass or avoid it completely. I was scared of the dark, so I decided to just sit in complete darkness and silence until something kicked in mentally that told me that there’s nothing in the dark. I actually prefer darkness to light now as it so happens. I was scared to death of bullies in school. This was an easy one as I just decided to start getting into bullies faces and see what happened. Most of the time the bullies backed down because the last thing a bully wants is to risk getting beat up by some guy who everyone thinks is weaker than he is. Every once in a while true bullying bad ass will go ahead and try to kick that ass, and he may succeed, but it was tougher than he thought it would be, and if it was me he was dealing with he had better be prepared to kick my ass everyday, and nobody wants to bother with that. As a result, some bullies from high school are among my best friends to this day. I know the feeling of fear fairly well and though I’m not particularly fond of scary movies, but I do watch an awful lot of them and it’s been a real long time since one of them has actually had the ability to truly fill me fear and dread. I know I’m still capable of that emotion because I felt it in force while playing ‘Doom 3’ on my computer with the lights out and the 5.1 kicking. To the point where I stopped playing that damned evil game. Screw that. When I saw the trailer to ‘1408’, which is based on a Steven King short story, I was thinking that this could very well be the first movie since John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ that could actually manage to keep me scared throughout. Well it didn’t, but it was still a pretty good movie though.

The venerable John Cusack is ghost writer Mike Enslin. Not a ghost writer in the sense that he writes autobiographies for famous people, but a literal ghost writer. Mike goes

to alleged haunted hotels, stays in the rooms where this horrific event or that horrific event has occurred and writes about it, basically debunking the myth. Soon Mike gets a postcard in the mail daring him to stay in 1408 at the Dolphin hotel in Manhattan, and after doing a bit of research, he determines that it is indeed the room that he  wants to stay in next, but management won’t allow it. Mike also has a tragic history in New York that he’s been psychologically running from for a couple of years, a history that has further cemented his doubt in anything supernatural and spiritual for that matter. Through some legal wrangling Mike is finally able to secure a stay in this mystical hotel room, but hotel manager Olin (Samuel L. Jackson) STRONGLY encourages Mr. Enslin not to stay in that room, and presents him plenty of documented info to support his case. Ever the cynic, Mike isn’t hearing any of his mumbo jumbo nonsense and off he goes for what will undoubtedly be the worst hour of his life.

First of all, how bad can a movie be with John Cusack in it? I don’t think Cusack has ever been in a ‘bad’ movie. Maybe a few ‘not so great’ movies, but a bad movie? Nah. Now Sam Jackson who I also greatly admire has been some ‘bad’ movies. For real. The setup for terror in ‘1408’ is handled wonderfully by director Mikael Hafstrom as everything about the Dolphin hotel, including its décor and its employees, not just room 1408, is eerily creepy. And I know that when the radio suddenly goes off and starts blaring The Carpenters ‘We’ve only just Begun’ it was supposed to be scary, but since I love that song (it was the first song I learned to play on the piano) I actually found it comforting and relaxing to hear. Now if they had played ‘Beat it’ or ‘Man in the Mirror’ that would have scared the shit out of me. I also enjoyed the realism of the Cusack character, within five minutes of staying in the room, cynical non-believer though he may be, he knew he had to get the hell out of there.

Cusack gives a fairly amazing performance considering the movie consists of him in a hotel room for an hour and a half and he pulls it off with ease. But it seems just when they had the opportunity to really scare the pants off of folks, Hafstrom lifts his foot off the gas. I don’t know if it was to preserve the PG-13 rating, or maybe it was really scary to some but just not to me or what, but what looked like it was on the verge being a terror classic actually turned into more of thriller type flick than a horror flick. Now there’s nothing wrong with that, and there was nothing wrong with ‘1408’, it’s just not what I was expecting.

Despite the fact ‘1408’ wasn’t the scary demon of a movie I was hoping it was going to be, it was still a very tight, taut, well acted piece of thrilling cinema and certainly one of the better movies released this year.

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