Mike Enslin (John Cusack) is a skeptic and author who debunks supernatural occurrences with books that taunt the believers. After the untimely death of his daughter, Katie (Jasmine Jessica Anthony) Enslin is researching his next book on haunted hotels: when he receives a tantalizing postcard about it, he is determined to check out room 1408 in New York's Dolphin Hotel, with its deadly past. Hotel manager Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson) does everything to discourage him of the dangers of "that evil room". But Enslin is determined, convinced that the horrific past of 1408 is more of the same - nothing but scary stories and perhaps a marketing gimmick for the hotel. His confidence is soon shattered.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
I'm very hard to please when it comes to the horror genre, but pleased I am with 1408, a dread concoction from Stephen King, sharply committed to film by a clever screenplay, solid direction and terrific performances. The effects are pretty cool, too. The success of horror lies in convincing the audience that the spooky bits are really spooky: they mess with your mind. With 1408, you get the real thing: a well developed idea that doesn't rely on clichéd ghosts but creates its own. Just like the inhabitants of room 1408, who bring with them their own demons, which are unleashed in the most destructive fashion. There are those that play back segments of Enslin's past life on the TV screen, and there are those that bring him images of his estranged wife. All this goes back to the death of their daughter, Katie (Jasmine Jessica Anthony) from an illness that Enslin feels they may have fought better. He is a non believer - in everything.
But make no mistake, the evil in room 1408 has plenty of physical manifestations as well, including some fresh takes on what makes your skin crawl. A walk on the window ledge to the adjoining room, for example, when Enslin thinks he can outwit the evil that's driving the room. Wrong ... again....
John Cusack is in top form in a demanding, challenging role as the cocky debunker who rapidly recognises there was truth in hotel manager Olin's (Samuel L. Jackson) warnings. He is alone with the demons most of the time, performing solo. Jackson's role, albeit short on screen time, is long on edgy ambiguity, and Jackson does a swell job as the enigmatic smoothie.
Gabriel Yared's score is a terrific vehicle for the film's dark mood, and I like the black sense of humour that has selected The Carpenter's hit, We've Only Just Begun as the music that is played so threateningly on the bedside clock radio every so often, in Groundhog Day style. Fans of really good horror won't be disappointed.
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MIKAEL HAFSTROM INTERVIEW
CAST: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Mary McCormack, Tony Shalhoub, Jasmine Jessica Anthony, Len Cariou, Isiah Whitlock jnr
PRODUCER: Lorenzo di Banaventure
DIRECTOR: Mikael Håfström
SCRIPT: Matt Greenberg, Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski (short story by Stephen King)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Benoit Delhomme
EDITOR: Peter Boyle
MUSIC: Gabriel Yared
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Andrew Laws
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 6, 2007
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