Horror. Worldview. Faith.

1408 – Review

1408 – Review

Feb 25, 2011

reviewed by hallo
directed by Mikael Hafstrom, 2007

1408 is a film based on the Stephen King short story of the same name found in the audio book collection “Blood and Smoke” and in the written form collection “Everything’s Eventual.”  The movie boasts of being on the same creepiness level as the immortal classic The Shining and certainly shares some similar themes with the iconic King masterpiece.  1408 is a visual playground of supernatural and “evil” activity that, although stunning and entertaining, could unintentionally mask the true power of the film’s core message:  The love of family.

The story follows Mike Enslin, an author who specializes in the supernatural genre, specifically writing of his experiences staying in  “hotels with spirits” and other alleged haunted vacation spots.  Despite his above average success as an author, Mike is a skeptic and does not truly believe in ghosts or spirits, making his work a daily battle of drudgery.  We discover throughout the story that Mike is separated from his wife and has lost his daughter Katie to cancer, only adding to his pessimistic and, at times, offensive attitude toward nearly everyone he encounters.  Mike receives a random postcard from the “Dolphin Hotel” with a simple but chilling message on the back; “don’t enter 1408.”  Attracted to the postcard, which offers something more enticing than the mountain of hotel brochures he received, he gives the Dolphin Hotel a call to book a room in 1408, only to be turned down at every request.  After learning from the legal department of his publishing agency that a hotel cannot refuse a room to anyone if it is vacant, Enslin returns to the Dolphin with more power in his punch and is eventually granted access to room 1408.  However, he is not given the key before being urged by the hotel manager Gerald Olin, played beautifully by Samuel L. Jackson, to change his mind.  Olin tries everything imaginable to convince Enslin to stay away from room 1408, from offering him a Penthouse suite, Knicks tickets, and the like.  He then pulls out an archive of the multitude of people who have died in room 1408.  The more famous stories Enslin had already researched, but he is taken aback when he learns of the 40-some odd people who died of “natural causes” in the room that never made the local paper.  Still yet, Enslin is determined and eventually secures the key and makes his way to the 14th floor.

From this point, the room, which Olin refers too simply as “an evil room”, begins to work on Enslin’s mind.  First, subtle occurrences happen like chocolates appearing on the pillows and the toilet paper being folded and replenished.  But quickly more alarming and disturbing events take place, such as Enslin slicing open his hand when the window randomly shuts, ghosts walking across the room and throwing themselves out the window, and most horrific, Enslin begins to hear and see images of his daughter.

The madness continues until we finally reach a place of sensory overload – the room is being flooded with water from a painting of a ship that hangs on the wall, the temperature goes to below freezing and the room fills with snow and ice, and the walls begin to crumble and bleed.  Enslin is near insanity when he finally is able to make a connection on his laptop computer through Yahoo messenger and a webcam to his wife.  Although she is reluctant at first, she eventually tells Enslin that she will “be right over.”   The movie has one “false ending” where it appears that Enslin’s experience was all a dream (thankfully it wasn’t).  Finally, Enslin decides that the only “real” thing he knows of for sure is fire.  So, he sets the room on fire in hopes of destroying it once and for all, taking himself down if need be.  Enslin ends up surviving and is reunited with his wife.  The film ends with Enslin listening to the tape recorder he was using to record his thoughts throughout the night.  On the recording both Enslin and his wife hear their daughter, Katie, talking with Enslin.  And the movie ends.

1408 spoke to me on a level that was rather gut wrenching – not so much because of the scares or imagery, but because of the true horror hidden away in Mike Enslin’s heart; the death of his daughter.  Room 1408, although certainly scary and menacing on its own, showed its true horrific nature by the way it brought to the forefront of Enslin’s life the absence of the thing he most desperately wants – his family.  In an even deeper sub-theme, Enslin is wrestling with the legitimacy and effectiveness of how they treated Katie during her last days.  They affirmed Katie’s questions about being with God and an afterlife, assuring her that “they would see her again” and so on.  Now that Katie is dead, Enslin is bothered by their lack of encouraging Katie to fight for her life, instead of filling her head with “pipe dreams.”  The performance by John Cusack is so well done that I was driven further into his sorrow and guilt than I was deeper into the concerns of room 1408.  Whenever a horror movie, while watching it, causes you to reflect on your own life without worrying too much about the on screen carnage, something special is happening.  The look of contentment on Enslin’s face in the last few seconds of the film when he audibly hears the voice of Katie perfectly sums up the entirety of the movie.  Enslin finds at least a modicum of peace in life because he knows Katie, in fact, lives on.

The direction, cinematography, and sound of 1408 were all brilliantly done.  If I were looking for any negative criticism, I would offer two small points:

1.  I felt the “evil” of the room was a bit exaggerated in its visual telling.  In other words, it was just a little too much.  Although creative and very well done from an effects standpoint, I think it could have been dialed back a few degrees and been even more effective.

2.  At the end, Enslin decides rather certainly that fire is the only “real thing.”  Why?  He has experienced everything under the sun, from heat to snow and ice to crumbling of walls.  Why is fire the one things he knows is real?

It doesn’t matter though because the movie is so well acted and directed that the “escape” of Enlsin from the room takes second place to the emotional heartache he has endured.  This is a very good movie.  Take a look.

Click Here to purchase 1408

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