1408 (horror thriller)
Cast: John Cusack, Mary McCormack and Samuel L. Jackson
Director: Mikael Hafstrom
Time: 94 mins
Rating: * * * 1/2 (out of 4)
WARNING: This supernatural thriller is not for people who have to stay in hotel rooms all by themselves. Adapted from Stephen King’s short story, the horrors of “1408” are bound to stay with you for a while – and they will come back to terrify you the minute you feel alone in a strange hotel room…
WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Mike Enslin (John Cusack, pictured) writes books about haunted houses and graveyards, mostly debunking their paranormal claims. Having lost a daughter to illness, Mike does not believe in what he cannot see or feel. So when he gets a mysterious postcard warning him of Room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel in New York, he decides that it would make a great closing chapter for his new book.
The hotel manager (Samuel L. Jackson as Gerald Olin), however, would not let Mike have 1408, telling him that more than 50 people had died there – and that no one has lasted more than an hour inside. Instead, he offers to upgrade him to a penthouse, and even makes him a gift of his prized bottle of whiskey. Mike is adamant. When Mike threatens a lawsuit, the manager has no choice but to take him up to the room – on the 13th floor.
Room 1408 looks ordinary enough but just when Mike starts to feel a tad disappointed with it, the room takes on a life of its own, beginning with the Carpenters song, ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ suddenly coming up on the bedside radio. By the time Mike decides that he has had enough and wants to check out, that option is no longer available to him!
HITS & MISSES: “1408” works as a seat-gripping horror because of Cusack’s performance. Cusack goes through a wide range of emotions in this film and all of them are believable. Like his laidback Mike, we too are initially sceptical about the room. Someone must be playing tricks, we think. However, director Mikael Hafstrom not only creates an eerie sense of menace, he also provides several ‘boo’ moments that come from both the ghosts in the room and Mike’s own inner demons. Soon, we get so drawn into them that we keep rooting for Mike to find a way out of his self-made predicament…
When we arrive at the ‘third act’ (the segment where the haunting mystery is seemingly unravelled), we take a much-needed breather but Hafstrom still has a card or two to play. “1408”, scripted by Matt Greenberg and Scott Alexander, offers an ending that is open to interpretation. Some may find it clever, some may be confused, while others may feel cheated. Still, the movie accomplishes what it sets out to do: scare the hell out of us the old-fashioned way. It does so without resorting to tired devices like sudden loud noises, bloody gore and cheap jolts.
THE LOWDOWN: "1408" is the most intelligent horror flick of the year – and definitely the scariest. Now, when is the next time you check into that grand ole hotel all by yourself?