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.
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.
- Sep 7, 2008