Wednesday, January 18, 2012


(June 2007, U.S.)

Stephen King has taken us to the haunted hotel before. I don't even have to tell you the title because you already know. In 1408, though, the terror is centered on just one particular room. The rest of the ficticious Dolphin Hotel in New York City functions quite normally. John Cusack's character, Mike Enslin, a hack writer of supposedly haunted places to stay in America, says something rather thought-provoking in the film and it goes something like this..."Hotels are a naturally creepy place...just think, how many people have slept in that bed before you? How many of them were sick? How many...died?". Yes, that's something you may not be thinking about the next time you check into the nieghborhood Marriot, but it certainly makes a more than valid point. Just who was in that room before you and what were they doing??

We've all been through the classic haunting tale before, and some of them in their own unique way, are very creepy to watch. The one cliche element that I've never gotten tired of, though, is the classic warning that the hero of our story should "stay away from that place". Hotel manager Gerold Olin (played by Samuel L. Jackson) maintains a very professional charm as he repeatedly warns (and begs) Mike Enslin NOT to stay in room 1408. Besides the classic warning of those who have died in that room before (56 deaths total!), he also maintains the fact that no guest has ever lasted more than an hour in that room. The room seems to know that, too, because one of the first things it does to spook Mike out is to set the room digital clock to sixty minutes and then proceeds to count down. The room is filled with its predictable cliche of scary jolts and screams. Cliche or not, though, they can get to you if you open up your imagination well enough. What I find a particularly interesting twist is the fact that Mike is constantly recording what happens around him into his little micro-cassette recorder. It's more than simple narration of events. You actually get to experience his fear as it slowly progress during what is supposed to be only one hour of his life. We're not only experiencing the haunting of a hotel room, but also the journey into the slow deterioration of Mike's mind and his sanity. Even when we think Mike has come out of it okay and that the whole thing may have been a harsh halucination as a result of a surfing accident, it shocking to see that we as the viewer have been deceived, perhaps more than once.

Theatrically-released Stephen King films have always been a hit and miss thing, in my opinion. For every smash hit like CARRIE (1976), THE SHINING (1980) and MISERY (1990), you have to also put up with duds like CUJO (1983), FIRESTARTER (1984) and MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (1986). 1408, I can gladly say, is one of those little Stephen King gems that gets right to the fear and terror of the classic haunting story. What's not to love abouth that, right?

Favorite line or dialogue:

Mike Enslin: "The room's gotta be filthy. I mean, the sheets haven't been changed in...what, eleven years?"
Gerald Olin: "No, no, no. We're very professional here. 1408 gets a light turn once a month. I supervise, the maids work in pairs. We treat the room as if it's a chamber filled with poison gas. We only stay ten minutes and I insist the door remain open. But still...a few years ago a young maid from El Salvador found herself locked in the bathroom. She was only there for a few moments, but when we pulled her out she was..."
Mike: "She was dead?"
Gerald: "No. Blind. She had taken a pair of scissors and gouged her eyes out. She was laughing hysterically."

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