1408 is a lot like an extended length episode of ĎThe Twighlight Zoneí. The plot is simple and the characters in it exist only as long as theyíre in frame. John Cusack plays Mike Enslin, a debunker of the supernatural and born skeptic who walks into a hotel room and finds himself not only trapped but suddenly and utterly convinced of the existence of otherworldly forces. Unable to escape, Mike spends in an hour in what the hotel manager, played perfectly by Sam Jackson, describes as ďan evil fucking roomĒ, and weíre along with him as room 1408 drives him past the point of terror and insanity like a nail pounded into the floor by a hammer.
The movie is based on a very short story by Stephen King, which perhaps explains the unusual simplicity of its framework. The filmís screenplay colors the move in a bit around the edges by attempting to add a subplot involving Mikeís belief in an afterlife, and director Mikael Hafstrom does his best to make the story even bigger than it is otherwise in written form, but when the credits roll itís ultimately still the story of a man stuck in an evil fucking hotel room for one, horrifying hour.
Simple the movie may be, but yeah itís really scary. Itís not just that itís scary, itís the way in which itís scary. The terror doesnít come from a bunch of jump cuts, or lame camera work in which the director goes out of his way to randomly throw things at you that make you jump out of your seat. Thereís a little of that, but most of it comes from simply fearing the room and fearing what the hell itís going to end up doing to Mike. Never has a King size bed had such an air of imminent menace, never has a mint on a pillow seemed so, well, evil.
Stephen Kingís story is disturbing and Mikael Hafstromís movie manages to make it even more so. After a lot of restraint, the movie goes a little CGI crazy at the end, but by then youíre so wrapped up in the story all that computer generated excess doesnít hurt. If 1408 misfires at anything, itís only in the filmís misfired attempt to reach for something bigger than simply being scary. That afterlife subplot never quite connected for me, it didnít add that extra layer of emotion and bigger meaning that I think the script was going for. It doesnít hurt the film, and in many ways it actually adds to the disturbing terror, but 1408 doesnít leave you questioning the nature life and death when you walk out the door. . If you think of the movie after you leave, itíll be only to wonder whether one of the pictures on the wall of your bedroom may be out to get you. For a humble little horror thriller like this one, I canít think of a better compliment.
Reviewed By: Josh Tyler