1408 : Based on Stephen King’s eponymous short story, this underrated psychological horror follows writer Mike Enslin (John Cusack) as he attempts to spend the night in the notorious room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel, despite warnings from the hotel manager (Samuel L. Jackson) who claims the room is pure evil.
Checking In: The film’s protagonist is a typical concoction of King’s—being a novelist with a forlorn past that overshadows his salvageable future—and Cusack plays that role to a tee. He’s edgy (not just because he carries around a trusty cigarette when the moods calls for it), he’s disgruntled (despite having a reasonably successful career as a “Top 10 Scary Places” horror writer), and best of all, he’s a skeptic who wants to believe. Cusack wears those dark shadows of skepticism on his face the entire movie, eventually succumbing to a terror too unimaginable even for a creative such as himself. Since the audience lives vicariously through his character as he endures the horrors of the room, we need something comfortable and familiar to latch on to, and Mike Enslin is just the guy.
Do Not Disturb: As it is discovered when Mike first attempts to check into 1408 of the aged but tasteful Dolphin Hotel, no one has lasted more than an hour inside the room and it has caused at least 56 deaths in the last 95 years. Upon first entering the room in question, all seems to be standard hotel fare—with modest living quarters, a sizable bedroom, and some eclectic oil paintings. But what really lurks behind the door of this wallpapered prison? 1408 takes an approach that could have easily been molded into a typical haunting story and gives it an exceptionally intelligent twist. Is it a spirit that haunts the hotel? A demon? A vagrant with violent tendencies? The answer to that question cannot be revealed in this review, but the sophisticated character given to an empty room is enough to garner praise for the visual effects artists and producers of the film.
Fit for a King: Stephen King is hands down the most marketable horror writer in the modern age. Almost every one of his novels has been adapted into either a film or mini-series. As far as 1408 is concerned, this is probably one of the most artistically produced reincarnations of his work. Of course, it is not on as elaborate of a scale as The Shining, but there is an added poignancy to the film that was lacking in the short story. As opposed to its literary counterpart, Mike has a backstory involving the death of his young daughter that the room takes advantage of accordingly onscreen. There is also a wider variety of dastardly deeds committed by the hotel suite that raises the bar more than moving picture frames and whispering voices ever could in the story.