DVD Release Date:  October 2, 2007
Theatrical Release Date: June 22, 2007
Rating: PG-13 (for thematic material including disturbing sequences of violence and terror, frightening images and language)
Genre: Horror/Thriller
Run Time: 94 min.
Director: Mikael Håfström
Actors: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Paul Birchard, Margot Leicester, Walter Lewis, Eric Meyers, David Nicholson, Alexandra Silber, Johann Urb, Andre Lee Potts, and Tony Shalhoub

If you’re a little low on your claustrophobia, schizophrenia, acrophobia, and especially “blood-o-phobia,” MGM’s latest movie will back you up—and then some.

Based on the Stephen King horror short story of the same name, 1408 tells of Mike Enslin (John Cusack), a skeptical author of two books on paranormal phenomena who is about to become a believer himself.

In researching for his latest book, Enslin is intrigued by the infamous room 1408 in a New York City hotel.  Though he’s warned in a mysterious letter not to go there, and though he fully believes the stories are all myths, his curiosity gets the best of him and he jumps through (even legal) hoops to arrange a stay.

When he gets to the hotel, Mr. Olin (Samuel L. Jackson) does his best, as the hotel’s manager, to persuade Enslin not to stay in the room.  He tells him that dozens of guests have died in 1408, and he begs him to leave.  Since Mike “doesn’t believe in anything but himself,” according to Olin, he thinks he has nothing to fear and proceeds inside.

At first the room seems quite normal, but very soon strange things begin to happen.  Though he thinks he’s alone, a radio suddenly comes on (with a distorted version of The Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun” playing), and he sees that two chocolates are on his pillow.  He finds that the toilet paper is nicely folded—after he’s used the bathroom!  The clock begins to spin, and it occurs to Enslin that it’s counting down minutes … 60 … 59 …. 58 … because “No one lasts more than an hour in 1408.  It’s a #@$%6 evil room.”

Enslin soon receives a phone call from a sweet-sounding, front desk lady who gives him an invitation to not experience the horrors and take advantage of an express check out—which, as he sees behind him in the mirror, is a noose on which to hang himself. 

Choosing not to exercise his check-out option, Enslin then spends a horrific hour that seems like many more and includes every kind of terrifying, paranormal event possible.  He sees dead relatives, including a daughter who had died, an ex-wife, terrifying messages on the wall (“Burn Me Alive”) and his own image in a window from another building.

While he sorts through what’s real and what’s not, he curses God for letting his daughter die and yells at his ex-wife for teaching the daughter the “stupid heaven Nirvana crap.”  In other words, the room serves to pull out and force a sorting through of one’s worst, suppressed fears.

Indeed, if you are afraid of something, then 1408 magnifies it.  There’s all nature of scary apparitions, and so many startling moments that it seems the filmmakers forgot to include a real storyline!  The movie has too many loose ends to follow:  there are several rabbit trails about Mike’s earlier book that showcased an unresolved father issue, the ex-wife, the dead daughter, etc., and there are numerous, unrelated horrors that beckon him toward different actions.

Production-wise, the special effects are really quite good.  The sound effects include all kinds of creaking, moans, whispers and all types of layered, startling scariness.

Regrettably, the worldview is not biblical.  The protagonist is compelled to sort through his issues alone in this hellish room, but the filmmakers give no real answers for either him or the terrified audience.  The tortured Enslin does pray a desperate prayer toward the end of the movie, but there is no correlation between his prayer and anything good happening.  Audiences are left with a high sense of hopelessness and meaninglessness.  Most importantly, no answers are given as to why the room is evil in the first place!

As ghost-story, horror flicks go, there are high production values in 1408, but there are just too many loose ends and an unfulfilling worldview to make this worth a 94-minute stay. 

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Excessive, with lots of drinking and taking of a hallucinogenic drug.
  • Language: About a dozen obscenities and/or profanities.
  • Sex: None.
  • Violence: Excessive.  Self-destruction.  Imagery of after-the-fact, bloody deaths, blood coming out of sinks, walls, cracks, etc. 
  • World View:  Hopeless, anti-God protagonist who takes an unresolved spiritual journey through his fears.