"Don't go in that room. It's evil."
Never have truer words been spoken in a spooky movie. 1408 had me flinching, jumping, and keeping my hand near my eyes so I could cover them in moment's notice.
It was great!
Like I said in my "Ah...Summer" blog, Stephen King short story adaptations tend to go well, and this one definitely goes quite well. Being trapped in a creepy hotel room is enough to scare tons of people. Being trapped in a creepy hotel room from the imagination of Stephen King? Totally new ballgame.
Samuel L. Jackson, aka "I'm in almost every movie ever made" Jackson, plays the creepy hotel manager. He's probably not actually creepy, but I pretty much convinced myself that something wasn't right about this man. Bravo, Mr. Jackson, for doing that. It kept me a little on edge even before the film moves to room 1408. Jackson, though, is only in the movie for maybe a total of 10 minutes. (I think I'm actually being generous.) The star, and the film's carrier, is John Cusack.
I don't know if anyone knows it, but John Cusack is actually an underrated actor. He's probably one of the highest rated underrated actors in the business, but that doesn't change the fact that he doesn't get all the props he deserves. Eighty percent of this movie is about him stuck in a hellish hotel room with nothing but his freaked out psyche and his trusty tape recorder to keep him company, and much like Tom Hanks acting opposite a volleyball, Cusack does some great stuff.
Cusack plays Mike Enslin, the author of a handful of Top Haunted Whatever books. He used to be a better writer but his daughter died very young, and his life crumbled around him, making him an extremely cynical son of a bitch. When this cynical Mike Enslin first enters room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel in New York, the audience is probably far more tense than he is. (Thanks, movie trailers.) Then things begin to happen--explainable things at first, then the unexplainable. The slow change from cynic to believer to scared out of his mind flows very smoothly across Cusack's face, almost as if the tension from the audience ebbs into the film.
1408 is kind of a hard movie to review. Mostly because I like to talk about story points and explain my reaction to said points. This isn't the kind of movie that should have bits revealed. Even if I try to be cryptic, I fear that I will give something valuable away. Let's just say that I like being scared, truly creeped out, and 1408 did a good job of that. (I'll never hear The Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun" the same way.) Yes, once some of the big bad revealed itself, I relaxed a bit in my seat, ...but not completely.
When Mike first walks into the room, many things are set up--odd paintings on the wall, a small closet next to the bed, a mysterious stain on the carpet. Oh, a let us not forget the grotesque pictures of all the deaths that have happened in the room. That'll stay with you through the movie! All of these things stay with you. Even after the initial tension has passed, you keep wondering when these things are going to come into play. That's the greatest thing about this movie--the anticipation. The payoff is by no means a throwaway topic, but nothing beats the seat-grabbing anticipation that keeps you going until something pops out and says "boo!"
If you're a fan of Stephen King or not, 1408 is what every good adaptation should be. It hints at the classic ways of scaring audiences. Much is left to your imagination, and even when the scary is revealed, it's only a blink. And you're still left to workings of your brain to make it more or less freaky. This, in my opinion, is far more nightmare-inducing than any cheesy slasher flick. Not the absolute best scary movie I've ever seen, but it's very far from being the worst.