A man who specialises in debunking paranormal occurrences checks into the fabled room 1408 in the Dolphin Hotel. Soon after settling in, he confronts genuine terror.A man who specialises in debunking paranormal occurrences checks into the fabled room 1408 in the Dolphin Hotel. Soon after settling in, he confronts genuine terror.A man who specialises in debunking paranormal occurrences checks into the fabled room 1408 in the Dolphin Hotel. Soon after settling in, he confronts genuine terror.
John Cusack gives a tour-de-force performance as Mike Enslin, a successful writer who specializes in the investigation of paranormal activity with a particular emphasis on hotel rooms that have the reputation for being haunted. The twist is that Enslin is, essentially, a nonbeliever who spends most of his time and energy debunking the very subject off which he is making his living. The 1408 of the title refers to a room in a swanky, five-star Manhattan hotel in which, we are told, no fewer than fifty-six guests checked in but never checked out, having met their untimely demises there in the decades since the establishment opened. Determined to put an end to the "foolishness," Enslin moves into the room convinced he will ride out the night in utter peace and safety. He has, of course, another think coming.
As adapted by Matt Greenberg, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, "1408" succeeds mainly by keeping it straight and simple and by focusing so intensely on the character of Enslin and his relevant back story. The multi-layered plotting keeps us guessing from first moment to last, so that we never quite know whether what Enslin is experiencing is really happening or whether he is suffering some form of mental breakdown brought on by the death of his young daughter and the subsequent breakup of his marriage a few years back. Along with director Mikael Hafstrom, the master craftsmen responsible for the film's phenomenal art direction and sound recording draw us into the strange world they've created where nothing is quite what it appears to be and where we spend most of our time nervously scanning the edges of the frame to see what surprise is next poised to jump out at us.
Cusack, who has long been underrated as a performer, gets the chance to really show us his acting chops in this role. He allows us to clearly see the fear and vulnerability hidden beneath his character's wisecracking, cynical exterior. Samuel L. Jackson and Mary McCormack also excel in the small but crucial roles of the wise hotel manager and Enslin's estranged but faithful wife, respectively.
For those who can remember a time when fright films had more on their minds than simple blood and gore, "1408" is like a refreshing, restorative tonic on a hot summer day.
- Jul 3, 2007