Directed By: Mikael Håfström

Starring: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Mary McCormack and Jasmine Jessica Anthony.

Score: Technical: 90, Story: 80, Acting 90, Overall Score: 86%

When was the last time a movie made its audience truly question reality and their own mentality? During a summer when movie studios are relying on sequels, trilogies, and recycled plot lines to draw in crowds and make money, Dimension Films is doing just the opposite with 1408. The movie is the latest adaptation of a horror/thriller/suspense novella by author Stephen King that grabs hold of the viewer’s sanity and doesn’t let go.

Sensing that 1408 would follow in the successful footsteps of other King adaptations, including Carrie, Salem’s Lot, and The Shining, Dimension hyped the movie up whiling advertising it, using the actors to their advantage. John Cusack, who stars as supernatural writer Mike Enslin, and Samuel L. Jackson, as the Dolphin Hotel manager Gerald Olin, helped advertise the movie; for example, in the weeks prior to the movie’s June 22 release, Cusack visited the shows Live with Regis and Kelly and The Late Show with David Letterman, and both actors visited The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, who praised the plotline.

The plot centers on Mike, who recently lost his daughter Katie, played by Jasmine Jessica Anthony. He is estranged from his wife Lily, played by Mary McCormack, as he travels to allegedly haunted hotels across the country to do research for his latest book. He finds himself drawn to the notorious room 1408 in the Dolphin Hotel in New York City, to prove that it isn’t haunted.

Once he arrives at the hotel, Mr. Olin asks him not to stay in 1408, due to the almost 50 deaths that have occurred there since the hotel opened in the early 1900’s, and the fact that he doesn’t want to clean up after him. Mike eventually convinces Mr. Olin to let him stay in the room, but once there, he can’t find a way out, while the room forces him to face his daughter’s death and his inability to emotionally move on.

Director Mikael Hafstrom made the right decision in hiring Cusack, who proved his strength and ability as a lead actor in yet another genre. While he was part of the ensemble cast of 2003’s thriller Identity, he was convincingly able to move the plot of 1408 forward as the lead actor. In many scenes, he was able to convey the emotions of a father in mourning, and deal with his own childhood, even though he was the only actor on screen. Also, in a matter of minutes, he made the audience believe that Mike underwent a revelation of doubting the validity of the subject matter that made his books famous to believing in it and trying to escape from the room that tested his sanity.

The audience will most have doubts of whether the hotel really does exist. While at home in California, Mike receives an anonymous postcard, warning him not to enter room 1408. However, it seems as though he never heard of the haunted room before, or even the hotel, even though he lived in New York with his family. He never researched the room or the hotel for any of his previous books, even though several have been best-sellers, and he’s in demand by readers to write more. Also, he doesn’t try to find out who sent him the postcard, or even question who sent it.

There were also plot holes in the movie that will most likely leave the audience wondering if Mike really stayed in the room. Mr. Olin tells him that the hotel staff only enters the room to clean it, for ten minutes once a month, since the hotel closed it off to the public 20 years ago. But if this is true, than how was the room modernly furnished and carpeted, and how would there be a modern fire sprinkler been installed and continuously monitored? Also, when Mr. Olin gives Mike the key for the room, it is a regular key, and not an electronic keycard, because he said electronics don’t work inside the room. But the room’s television, clock radio, and phone, as well as Mike’s cell phone and laptop computer, all work inside.

Overall, 1408 lives up to previous adaptations of Stephen King’s works that have done well at the box office, as it relies on psychological twists, rather than overt violence. There’s an actual story to it, and it makes the audience think about what’s going on, rather than just having them stare at blood and gore. During its opening weekend, it debuted in the number two spot at the box office and made $20.6 million, exceeding its expectations of $12-18 million. It’s also the first thriller or horror movie since Disturbia to be successful at the box office this year. While it’s rated PG-13, it’s not suited for children, as there is some sexual content, profanity, smoking, and alcohol.

Review by Karen Benardello


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