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The cynical and skeptical writer Mike Enslin writes books evaluating supernatural phenomena in hotels, graveyards and other haunted places, usually debunking the mystery. While writing his latest book, he travels from Los Angeles to New York to spend one night in the Dolphin Hotel's evil room 1408, which is permanently unavailable for guests. The reluctant manager Mr. Gerald Olin objects to his request and offers an upgrade, expensive booze and finally relates the death of more than fifty guests over decades in the cursed room. However Mike threatens Mr. Olin, promising to sue the hotel, and is finally allowed to check into the room. Later in the night, he finds that guests of room 1408, once they have checked in, might never leave the room alive. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Please note that this review refers to the theatrical version, and not the Director's Cut DVD release which features a completely different ending.
Mike Enslin is a cynic. He is the author of books that detail and debunk popular ghost stories and haunted hot-spots, and it quickly becomes obvious that he is somewhat disenchanted with the life that he leads. That is, of course, until he receives an invitation to Room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel, a room in which lies his and arguably John Cusack's biggest challenge yet.
It soon becomes apparent that 1408 is not your standard horror movie, as what follows, after an enjoyably creepy encounter with hotel manager Gerald Olin (Samuel L Jackson), is essentially 90 minutes of John Cusack in a room. On his own. Save for, of course, whatever lurks inside 1408. It is a challenge that Cusack rises to expertly; we all know he's a good actor and a brilliant everyman (I don't remember a film in which I've wanted to see him crash and burn), but 1408 allows him to display his range to great effect as the room confronts him with the physical dangers of the present and the emotional tragedies of his past.
While it's relatively light on big scares, 1408 instead creates a powerful sense of unease that combines wonderfully with Cusack's portrayal of a man enduring his own private hell. Each challenge thrown up by the room takes the movie somewhere new and unexpected, ensuring that the movie never really gets tired or repetitive, and as a result each scene in the room is tense, surprising, and very, very creepy. However, that's not to say that it doesn't lose its way occasionally. Some of the CGI usage is quite ineffective, and about two-thirds through the movie it feels like it's about to go the wrong way, but it recovers well for the final act, and its haunting ending ensures that you'll remember it long after you leave the theatre.
A brilliantly acted, well developed version of King's short story, 1408 is a different type of horror movie, but in all the right ways. Very good!
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