Room “1408”: Worth Checking Out

1408 Film ReviewRoom 1408: Worth Checking Out
Rating: 3 of 4 stars
Film Review By Mercurio D. Rivera

The latest adaptation of a Stephen King short story, 1408 stars John Cusack as scribe Mike Enslin, a hardened cynic who writes tour guides reviewing the spookiest spots across America. After suffering a personal tragedy, Enslin spends lonely days on a book tour seeking solace in spirits of a different kind, the only kind he believes in, until he receives an anonymous postcard touting Room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel in Manhattan as prime ghost-hunting territory. A determined Enslin sets off on another debunking mission, but initially has trouble reserving the room. It turns out that hotel management has closed off Room 1408 since the 1980’s due to 56 deaths, including a parade of jumpers, a man who slit his own throat and tried to sew it back up with a knitting needle, various self-inflicted eye gougings, and patrons stricken with a nasty case of insanity—all within an hour after checking in. To summarize, “it’s a fucking evil room,” says Samuel L. Jackson as the hotel manager who implores Enslin to stay away with no success. (“I don’t want to clean up the mess,” he explains.)

Cusack is terrific as the increasingly desperate protagonist at war with the room’s special effects, including bleeding wallpaper, morphing paintings, extreme temperatures and, most chillingly, a digital clock-radio that blares the Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun” at the most inopportune moments. It’s scarier than it sounds—I guess “Hotel California” would have been too obvious?—but if this were all that it was about, the film would quickly turn tedious. What gives “1408” its edge and distinguishes it from scores of other haunted house special effects movies is the psychological component: Enslin is forced to confront the most frightening creatures of all—yep, those pesky inner demons.

In contrast with King’s other hotel horror masterpiece The Shining, which evoked a sense of dread from its isolated snowbound setting, King’s story manages to wring genuine chills despite its mid-Manhattan setting, mostly in everyday objects found in typical hotel rooms—no easy feat. All in all, this is a smart, above-average horror flick definitely worth checking out.

By Mercurio D. Rivera for Senses Five Press

4 Replies to “Room “1408”: Worth Checking Out”

  1. I’m glad they opted not to play “Hotel California.” I will be happy if I never, ever, fucking ever hear that song again. I would, in fact, volunteer to go on a crusade to have it removed from existence.

  2. That sounds about right. I saw an early cut of this in preview (I could still see the wires in a lot of the special effects scenes) and thought it was a solid horror film, mostly thanks to Cusack’s performance. The family subplot felt a bit more cliched in my opinion, and didn’t completely satisfy me.

  3. A friend of mine says he used to really like “Hotel California”, until a cross-country road trip with his buddy. As he puts it: “Five days, three thousand miles … one album.”

  4. Everyday objects are the scariest – except for those inner demons…Looking forward.

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