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 posessed 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
When Mike settles into the first hotel room, he is careful to set his unlit cigarette in the ashtray so it is balanced, neither end touching anything. When the shot cuts and pulls back, the cigarette is well-leaning into the ashtray. See more »
-***Spoiler Alert - Alternate Ending*** The Director's Cut contains a more tragic ending. Mike Enslin sets fire to 1408 but is not rescued by the fire department. Instead, the last we see of him is when he's lying on his back in the burning room and we hear the words of his daughter "everybody dies". The camera zooms in on the numbers on the outside door, just as they melt from the heat. The next scene is at Mike's funeral where his coffin is lowered into the ground right next to his daughter's; just as the visions 1408 prophesied. Lily is there, being consoled by Mike's agent. As the procession ends, Lily walks to her car and is met by Gerald Olin who is carrying a box. Gerald introduces himself and gives his condolences. He says the box contains some of Mike's belongings still left in the room. He offers it to Lily while also trying to explain, with a sense of hope, that Mike's death of was not in vain and that because of his actions no one else will *ever be able to stay in room 1408. Lily, in too much grief to listen, cuts him off and refuses to accept the box. Gerald returns to his car and opens the box, which contains the nightgown that was sent through the fax machine as well and the burned tape recorder. Gerald plays it and hears the same dialog between Mike and his daughter heard at the end of the theatrical release. As he listens, he sees a young girl in his rear-view mirror waving in his direction. He turns around to look at her and catches a brief vision of Mike Enslin in his back seat, hideously burned. Gerald jumps but the vision quickly disappears. He looks back at the girl who has found her dad that was looking for her. Gerald catches his breath, starting his car and driving off. The final scene goes back to room 1408. We see a specter Mike Enslin staring out the window. The last shot is of him finishing his cigarette and walking towards the door just as he vanishes. See more »
The idea behind 1408 is actually kind of cute; a sort of 'what if' scenario based on what might happen if an inanimate object was given life. We've all seen Child's Play and perhaps the less than desired sequels but here, the inanimate object given life and then forced to fall into the horror genre is a motel room a neat and effective idea. Following on from other such Stephen King adaptations, 1408 adopts the approach of putting someone in an individual location and then allowing events to unfold around them without ever letting them leave: it can be a prisoner in The Shawshank Redemption in a prison; a crippled author trapped in a lodge in Misery or a haunted motel room you cannot escape from as seen here.
1408 begins with an immediacy; a false immediacy that caught me off guard and worked really well. We get John Cusack's character Mike Enslin driving in the rain, at night and clearly lost an easy, easy set up for a horror film but what follows is him finding the motel he was looking for, staying the night and leaving the next day in some disappointment it is an anticlimax, for the character as well as for us as we have been led down a route of suspecting the film will begin its scares from the very off with a familiar set up before having everything cancelled and having the film cut to some bright, colourful shots of people surfing.
But the subject matter and choice of editing is the secret here and it mirrors the idea the director has for the anti-climax. A dark, wet and 'spooky' for the genre night is juxtaposed for shots of the sea and surfers going about their business in bright sunshine. In fact the film goes on and has its ghost hunting author of the lead role state that he hasn't ever actually even seen a ghost, which further adds to the now dead and unsuspecting atmosphere the film has decided to lay onto us. It's these early mind-games and cancelling out what we take for granted that kicks the film off wonderfully well, setting up things to come.
But Mike is drawn to a hotel called The Dolphin, and its infamous room 1408 from which the film gets its title. 1408 is a doomed, cursed room that keeps its inhabitants and renders them insane over time by basically erasing them from the face of the Earth; either that or erasing the face of the Earth around them so that the room and the individual are the only things that seem to exist. But while the film is not flawless, the exchanges and that initial thirty to forty minute trip once inside the room has more than enough ammunition to label this a successful horror film. The pleasantries and the introductions are done in a very urgent and dismissive manner; hotel hot-shot Gerald Olin (Jackson) doesn't build the room up prior to entry in a 'be careful' or a 'it's dangerous' mannerism but goes the whole hog and simply tells Mike it's a death trap and he will not survive, period.
The funny thing is that we have no reason to believe anything that initially happens in room 1408 is really all that bad. The film has given us a series of scenes prior to the main course of a night in 1408 that do not have anything to do with the horror genre, at least not conventionally: they consist of a beach scene where people surf; a public book signing and a scene in which the lead character checks their mail how many horror films would usually have their lead check their mail before heading off for the film's main plot strand? But this is what's clever about 1408, the 'scares' at the early stage consist of window's accidentally shutting on the individual's hand; taps breaking off and spraying water everywhere and the alarm radio randomly coming on to the tune of The Carpenters.
So these events could just be coincidence, indeed even Mike comes to the conclusion he has been drugged through the whiskey and complimentary mint after all the fancy build up and is imagining it all, he and us have good reason to believe it could all be fake. One of the other reasons 1408 works is because of its protagonist and how strong and independent they are the hero here is not some teenager whose reason to exist is so that they can be chased by a knife wielding maniac, Mike is a smart man who seeks these sorts of situations down and indeed uses several methods to calm himself down when everything feels a little too real he is rational and realistic.
Although the best bit about 1408 is what you might come to realise afterwards in the sense it could be a metaphorical journey for Mike given what revelations and problems arise, to do with domestic issues, later on. 1408 is his purgatory where he is forced to confront his past demons; it's a metaphor for coming to terms with what happened and who he is, especially after so many monotonous mis-fires in this job as an author. 1408 is a creepy and unnerving film that also comes across as quite smart. In my view, a success.
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