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Surprisingly effective
keiichi7322 June 2007
While doing some research before reviewing 1408, I was shocked to discover that this was the first time since 2004's Riding the Bullet that a film based on a Stephen King story had gotten the big screen treatment. 1408 marks somewhat of a comeback to the silver screen for the author after mainly working with television the past couple years. Director Mikael Hafstrom has created the most atmospheric and downright tense thriller I can think of so far this year. The premise may be thin, and yeah, it doesn't always make a lot of sense. But, is it ever effective.

Mike Enslin (John Cusack) used to be a promising author until the untimely death of his young daughter, Katie (Jasmine Jessica Anthony). He now spends his time writing trashy paranormal novels about the world's most haunted areas. He travels the world, doing research by staying overnight at places that are supposed to be haunted, gets some colorful background info that he can use for material, and then moves on to his next job. One day, Mike receives a postcard informing him of an old hotel in New York City called the Dolphin Hotel, which is supposed to have a room that has quite the history. Doing some private research, he learns that the Dolphin has had a long and tragic history of deaths, all of them surrounding the guests that have stayed in Room 1408. Mike books the room, despite the warnings of the hotel manager, Gerald Olin (Samuel L.Jackson). Entering the room, nothing seems ominous at first. But then, the room itself begins to take on a life of its own, and begins tormenting Mike with various ghostly apparitions, mind tricks, and even displaying his own painful past before him in various ways.

1408 is the second thriller set around a hotel released in less than two months (the other being April's Vacancy), and is by far the superior film. The film is actually quite subtle in its way of creeping us out and disturbing us, which is a nice change of pace from the recent Hostel: Part II. Rather than bombard the audience with ghostly special effects and gore, the movie gets under your skin and goes for a much more psychological approach. The screenplay by Matt Greenberg, Scott Alexander, and Larry Karaszewski, wisely does not even attempt to explain Room 1408. It's just a very evil presence that can somehow look deep within troubled souls, and torture them to death with their own personal demons. In the wrong hands, this material could have been laughable. Even though the movie frequently flies into the realm of the unbelievable, it manages to somehow stay grounded.

A lot of this has to do with the fact that the film never loses its way, and become an excuse to throw as many special effects and jump scares into the movie as it possibly can. The human element of Mike Enslin is always at the center of the story itself, and its scares. The movie is built around the fact that he is forced to face his personal demons the longer he stays in his room, as well as try to keep his mind in check as various nightmarish hallucinations are paraded before him. It's much more effective than the usual characters that have passed as villains in recent paranormal films (usually gray-skinned people with hair over their faces), and it never once becomes heavy-handed or preachy. This is also a tricky balance to pull off. When the room started showing him flashbacks of Mike's own past, I grew nervous, thinking that the movie was going to start hitting us over the head with morales. Fortunately, it never once loses its sense of the eerie, and remains appropriately unsettling throughout.

At the center of the movie is John Cusack, who literally has to carry the movie almost by himself. This is essentially a one-man show for most of its running time, with fleeting apparitions being his main companions. Cusack has long been a favorite of mine, and this is one of his stronger recent roles. He not only has to carry almost the entire film on his own, but he also has to convincingly act like he is slowly going insane without hamming it up, or losing his personality. Any actor can tell you that madness is a difficult thing to depict. He strikes a very good balance, and remains believable throughout. Samuel L. Jackson is also notable in his small, but no less important, role as the manager who tries to talk Mike out of his decision to stay in the room. And then, of course, there is Room 1408, which is a character itself. The way it is constantly changing itself, right down to the paintings on the wall, creates an effectively creepy atmosphere that is continuously bizarre, but never so much so that we lose our sense to believe.

1408 succeeds where so many other films have failed in that it is not about apparitions jumping out at the actors or lurking in dark shadows. It digs much deeper for its horror than simple jolt thrills, and becomes an effectively thrilling horror film. It could be argued that the whole thing loses some weight when we apply logic to the story. But seriously, who wants to apply logic to a movie about an evil hotel room that can read your mind? When all is said and done, 1408 is a reminder of what horror can do. It can do so much more than thrill us. It can also make us laugh and leave us captivated. Perhaps what's more surprising than the fact that the movie can accomplish all that is that so few other horror films can.
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An innovative horror film
antonioiam21 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I've never seen a horror film quite like 1408--can you even call this film a "horror"? Well, it's not the horror movie we're used to seeing in this day and age. The films that are supposed to scare us nowadays are made from the same recycled junk we've been seeing for years now. Nonsensical plots are dreamed up just to make use of the exciting range of CGI. Underdeveloped characters we don't care about are tortured/murdered by a psycho for no apparent reason. Most of the intended audience for these movies isn't even scared anymore.

Let me tell you, 1408 is different. Its main intention is not to scare you (though it undoubtedly will); it wants to tell you a story. It doesn't start out as a scary movie. John Cusack plays cult writer Mike Enslin, a man who visits supposed haunted spots in order to debunk their reputations in the mildly-successful books he writes with titles such as "10 Nights in Haunted Hotels". When the room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel in New York is brought to his attention, research tells him that the death tally in the room is in the double digits. He sees the room as a solid ending chapter for the new book he's working on.

The film is based on a Stephen King short story, which I had the pleasure of reading before I saw the film. While the film does take its creative liberties, it never forgets where it comes from. Writers Matt Greenberg, Scott Alexander, and Larry Karazewski seem to be very well-read on the author, and the movie always feels just like Stephen King--if you've ever read him, you know what I'm talking about. There have been times when I've been reading a novel of his and had to tell myself, "Calm down, it's just a book." There are moments in this film of such mind-gnawing anxiety, such high-adrenaline terror that I had to tell myself, "Calm down, it's just a movie." (Note: Stephen King does recommend the film.)

Director Mikael Håfström never takes his audience's intelligence for granted. We're never beaten over the head with the same thing; the film is always headed somewhere new and exciting. The innovative ideas here are just terrific.

John Cusack is brilliant as the cynical writer with a tragic past. He's never unbelievable, and he always nails the character down perfectly. There was never a time when I wasn't rooting for Mike Enslin in 1408. There was never a time when I did not want him to get out of the room. Cusack's emotional range is really put into play here, and the casting could not have been any more dead-on.

Samuel L. Jackson gives a chilling performance as a manager who is intent on not letting Mike enter room 1408. His determination to convince Mike not to enter the room only fuels Mike's determination to enter it. Through him, we pick up on the facts about the room Mike's research couldn't provide. His warnings give us chill bumps but leave enough open so that we still don't know what we're in for.

And with room 1408, you never really know what you're in for. Who am I to ruin it for you? Just know that this is not a mystery. We will not come to understand why the room is the way it is. There are, of course, those who will be disappointed by 1408--because when all is said and done, they will find it's not a movie about a freaky hotel room, but rather the man who's trapped in that hotel room and what he finds there.
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Top notch supernatural thriller
Roland E. Zwick3 July 2007
If your horror movie tastes run less towards chainsaw-wielding maniacs and more towards things-that-go-bump-in-the-night, then this is the movie for you. Based on a short story by the great Stephen King, "1408" is one of the genuine movie sleepers of summer 2007.

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.
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Effective Ghost Story
dglink22 June 2007
Just when you thought it was safe to check into a New York City hotel, along comes Mikael Hafstrom's chilling "1408." Not since Norman Bates terrorized guests at his motel has a paying customer received such treatment during a night's lodging. Although somewhat more cerebral than viscerally frightening, "1408" delivers its share of shocks and frights, and viewers will stay in their seats not to miss the film's twists and swerves. In a cruel blow to fans of 1970's soft rock, listening to the Carpenters' hit "We've Only Just Begun" afterward may stimulate nightmares and certainly will never be the same again.

John Cusack, a cynical writer who has sunk from producing intimate novels to hack work about haunted inns, is lured to a Manhattan hotel where room 1408 is off limits to visitors, because of its long history of inhospitality. With only a knapsack, but tons of baggage from family misfortunes, Cusack insists on a night in room 1408, despite the management's objections. Cusack triumphs over the staff and settles into the chamber's banal decor, which he idly describes piece by piece into his pocket recorder for the intended article. The evening starts to look like a genuine snooze, when the room's unsettling turn-down service, a chorus from the Carpenters, and a radio that begins an ominous countdown unnerve both Cusack and viewers.

Although the "night in a haunted house" routine has been done endlessly since movies began, Hafstrom for the most part effectively plays his audience with an eerie, often jarring, soundtrack, clever cutting, and a minimum of effects. "1408" is a ghost story, not a horror or slasher flick, and, as effective haunting tales have shown ("The Haunting," "The Uninvited"), the unknown, the unseen, and the unexplained are far more frightening than CGI effects. Although reminiscent of "The Shining," another Stephen King adaptation, this film was evidently made on a modest budget. Thus, Hafstrom worked largely with a one hotel-suite set and one mid-level actor. Besides Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson also appears as the enigmatic hotel manager, who warns Cusack about the room, yet seems to know more that he shares. Cusack is fine as always and carries the film effortlessly and literally through Hell and high water. While perhaps not as scary as the premise suggests, "1408" nevertheless provides intelligent entertainment for lovers of old fashioned ghost stories.
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different, subtle, and very, very good
Mike Keating4 September 2007
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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One of the better Stephen King Movies in a long time
quint77731 May 2007
Here's why. Stephen King's psychological horror rarely ever shows its face on the screen the way it appears in his writing. This movie captures a lot of the mental torture that Stephen King writes so well (embodied in room 1408). I typically always see Cusack as playing himself in every movie he's in. Fortunately, this role appeals to that character. I would say see it and judge for yourself. I specifically enjoyed the background music and director's choice of camera angles. I also appreciated the mix of surprise horror and psychological. All too often, a horror film loads up too much on one side and it just doesn't work out well!
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Shined Up
tedg20 September 2008
Shined Up

I decided to watch this after Polanski's "the Tenant" and that was probably a bad choice, because that film is precious.

This one consists of three elements, typical of the King formula.

The first is the expression of terror, shaped safely so that you can watch but not be personally threatened. I think this is a King invention. Here, we know WE would have taken seriously the warnings so he deserves what he gets. It relieves us.

The second element is trite, so far as I am concerned. Also a King specialty is to weave some sort of emotional trauma into the otherwise merely decorative horror. Here it is the death of our character's child, which happened before we meet him. This allows for the final zinger.

The third element is the stuff I study and that King knows well. I call it narrative folding. Situations are nested in each other. Time gets shifted, at the same time that the period in the room proceeds in real time, even with a clock counting down. Ghosts inhabit ghosts and all people are ghosts. Cold is hot. Water is land. Daughter is wife.

This is the stuff that makes the film work, and I think it is done pretty well. Its why they picked Cusak. He understands this stuff. Has since "Malkovich" and "Fidelity" and mastered in "Identity."

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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Wow! Much better than expected!
aaronandaustin22 June 2007
A truly great horror film, with outstanding performances by both Samuel L. Jackson and Cusack. Well worth your money and time. If you are a Stephen King fan, then you will love this movie. I also suggest that you pick up and read the short story Room 1408. The movie truly captures the essence of the story, and when watching it, you'll think "Wow... this is definitely a Stephen King movie."

The film is so convincing that I couldn't believe that King didn't write the screenplay himself. This is a wonderful way to spend a few hours; I'm definitely going to see this one again.

This film also breaks away from the (at least recent) standard of having a crummy, thrown together story with copious amounts of gore thrown in in place of plot. This movie has an excellent story that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.
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Best King Horror Adaptation since The Shining
mstomaso24 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
John Cusack gets drunk and trashes a hotel room.

What could be more fun?

Well, how about a hotel room that isn't just haunted, but is actually a place where the universe's physical laws - especially the ones that deal with trivial matters such as space and time - don't really apply, and the room itself is a sentient manifestation of evil.

Getting better?

Well, what if we give our 'sentient manifestation of evil' a consciousness and the ability to penetrate and read the subconscious minds of anybody who happens to be in the room and then show them their worst fears or deepest pains?

Still not satisfied?

OK - just for the sheer hell of it (and there is plenty of sheer hell to go around in this film) - why not make Cusack a self-righteous investigative documentarian who is going around debunking hauntings all over the U.S., but is actually in denial about enormous emotional problems centering around his daughter's death and his own childhood.

If this sounds like fertile ground for entertainment, and you don't mind getting scared half to death, you should go see 1408 right away.

It was long ago, and I was different person when I read the Steve King story upon which this film is based, so I can't really comment on how close to the text 1408 is. What I can say, however, is that this film is a more true representation of the feeling of King's writing and pacing than almost any I can think of. This is also the first film I have seen in many years that actually made my skin crawl (across the floor of a crowded theater).

The film wastes relatively little time setting up Mike Enslin's character and situation, but once its all on the table, you find yourself incapable of escaping either. I have seen a couple of reviews which attack 1408 for lack of characterization. These reviewers must have wandered into the wrong theater, because they've not seen the same film I just saw. My advice to these reviewers is - try paying more attention to what your watching instead of your pre-conceptions about the genre. Cusack's character is beautifully set up - from his editor's "he can get kind of morose." to his more-or-less constant drinking, painful flashbacks focusing on his daughter, and inability to communicate with people he cares about. It's all there, for those who have the attention span and sensitivity to look for it.

Cusack's performance is a tour-de-force of physical and psychological acting. Having a hard time imagining him in this role? Take what Cusack did in "Being John Malkovich", quadruple the intensity, the fear, and the suspense, add alcoholism and self-denial, and there you have Mike Enslin. I never doubted that Cusack had the raw talent, but was actually surprised to see him pull it off SO well. Although the films are radically different, this could be for him what 'Leaving Las Vegas' was to Nick Cage, or what 'Hollywoodland' should be for Ben Affleck. The rest of the cast all have fairly minor roles, but are fine.

Mikael Hafstrom did a very nice job with directing. There is never a pointless scene, nor a dull moment, nor any loose ends. The plot is spelled out in detail, and all the clues are there to unravel the mysteries, but the clues are not so unsubtle as to permit you to guess what's next. As I said before, the feeling and pace of King's work come through very nicely. The special effects are all very convincing (relatively little CGI, and where animation was used, it was very well done),and the camera-work is picture perfect. I was especially impressed by the fact that 1408 cost about $25,000,000 to make - a mere pittance compared to many of the schlock-fests Hollywood horror has tossed up recently.

Very highly recommended for people who tend to sleep easily at night. If you are an insomniac, catch a matinée like I did.
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"The Shining For 2007"
Matt_Layden22 June 2007
Mike Enslin makes a living as an author, who specializes in the paranormal phenomenon. After receiving a postcard saying DO NOT STAY IN 1408, Mike becomes intrigued. After much hassle and waring from the hotel Manager, Mike finally makes it into the room. What at first seems to be a normal hotel room, turns into a horrific nightmare and Mike only has one hour to live.

There have been many films based on Kings writings. Some of these films are terrifying, such as IT and The Shinning; while others are terrifyingly bad, Dreamcatcher anyone? The latest film to be added to the list is 1408 and lucky for us it belongs to the former. 1408 works on many different levels and even throws a twist to the audience. While it's not the best King adaptation it certainly is one of the better ones and deserves to be called The Shining for 2007.

In the era when so called horror films are full of SAWS and HOSTELS, it's refreshing to see some new blood being pumped into the genre. 1408 pumps a whack of blood and a whole lot more. The film starts off as one would expect, with Mike investigating one of his routine spooky places, then goes on to show his life as a writer with not so many fans. We get a sense of loneliness with Mike, he has lost something. Cusack plays the character well. For those who think they can't get pass the fact that it is John Cusack, I assure you you will not think about it during this film. His performance is a complete 180 from his previous work and I give him credit for pulling it off. Cusack goes through a wide range of emotions through this film, most of them being on the terrified side, but everyone of them is believable. Sure there are many other actors out there who could have pulled off this role, but Cusack does a fine job. Which is a really big thing that this film depends on, because there is virtually no one else in this film. The supporting characters are lucky is they get 10 minutes of screen time. Tony Shalhoub, of MONK fame is only in one scene and Mr. Jackson shares the screen with Cusack for just about ten minutes...to explain the horrors of the room, then he's gone.

Håfström, whose work I'm not too familiar with does an excellent job of bringing King's short story to live with a vivid and creative imagination. He manages to keep the audience on the edge of their seat throughout the film the moment the terror starts. The film's intentions are not to scare you with the "jump" tactic, but tries to pull something deeper, the kind of scare the builds and builds until you can't take it anymore. The entire time we are in this claustrophobic room and we know danger is looming, but we can't escape. We are stuck in this room because Mike is stuck in this room. We know the dangers ahead, we want out, he doesn't. The cinematography is beautiful, especially considering it takes place in one room. From the icy cold snow to the green walls and even the burnt aftermath of destruction, the film is beautiful no matter what is on the screen.

Cusack talking into his recorder acts as his mind trying to grab any sense of reality in this evil room. Trying to debunk the true horrors of what is actually happening. Those true horrors are psychological. One minute something spooky is happening, then next everything is normal. This mind game has been done before and before and here it's brought to the next level. Everything that happens can instantly change. One minute you can be walking in the room full of snow, then next your trapped under water. Being confined to this one room with this one character places tension on the audience as well. We don't know what is going to happen next, but we know it's not good.

There is somewhat of a twist in the film, I won't give it away, but once it happens you see 3 things happen and in this order. One is disappointment, the next is predictability and finally excitement that what you predicted is true. During this third part of things that happen, the scene in which everything is thrown back into focus is superbly done. Kudos to that scene as it is one of the best in the entire film. The main characters life he thought he had all of a sudden comes tumbling down, literally. This whole segment does slow down the pace of the film, but it fits perfectly into the psychological torment of this character.

In the end 1408 is an excellent film that will send shivers down the spines of those wanting a good scare. If you're sick and tired of the played out genres of SAW or HOSTEL, 1408 is something new and exciting and actually good. You won't get much from anyone other then Cusack, but what he brings to the table is indeed a good performance. Every corner and every room within 1408 is something that you will have to see for yourself, you never know what horrors lie next and that my friend, is a good horror film.
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Great Film
Bryan22 June 2007
First of all a few months ago, I wrote a review for Dead Silence. I don't remember a lot of what I said for that movie, but I do know that in a world of Saw, Hostel, and other movies that try to be horror but can't make the grade, I felt that Dead Silence was a breath of fresh air.

After watching 1408 I know that the REAL breath of fresh air is the amazing almost 1 man performance of John Cusack, as well as the great support work by Samuel L. Jackson and Mary McCormack.

This is a movie that not only made me jump at certain times like Dead Silence did, but it also made me legitimately scream out in fear of a particular scene involving John Cusack on a ledge on the 14th story of a building. I guess my fear of heights also had something to do with it.

This is a movie for guys to take women that they like to, so that when the real scary parts do kick in, the classic jump-into-your-lap-in-terror will happen.

Don't be fooled by the pansy PG-13 rating. It is very scary and even though I didn't read the Steven King book of the same name, I feel that this totally captures King's own personal sense of fear. I definitely give this 10 out of 10 because this is without a doubt one of the most frightening (and I mean that in a good way, not in a crappy slit your wrists because Showgirls sucks kind of way) movies to come out in a very long time.

So go and see it, enjoy it,and let's hope that maybe Hollywood can give us REAL horror movies instead of the cheap, lame wannabes that have disgraced our movie screens before this film came out.
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Gripping, albeit conventional throwback to the era of psychological horror
pyrocitor13 March 2008
The word "horror" has become increasingly twisted in modern cinema to be equated with paper thin excuses for characters being subjected to senseless violence and various cheap shocks intended to make the audience sporadically jump rather than actually be subjected to an all-consuming sense of overwhelming fear. With that in mind, it is refreshing to see a literary adaptation from Steven King, largely considered the godfather of the modern horror story, which resists falling prey to such trappings, and instead concentrates on generating more carefully thought out scares, preying on deep seated societal terrors. As such, director Mikael Håfström's 1408 proves a merciful throwback to the days of psychological horror thrillers, concentrating more on the mind than the bile duct, and a solid enough effort to help re-instigate the initial traits of the genre into the modern mainstream.

While the film's premise of a jaded writer (Cusack) with a haunted past attempting to debunk legendary horrific sites having his cynicism tested by unknown forces surrounding an ominous hotel room with a death toll of 57 may sound implausible out of context, the film's execution is just intelligent and self-aware enough to make it work. Håfström's firm and capable directorial hand keeps things suitably grounded in reality when some of the film's more far-fetched plot points threaten to overwhelm the credibility of the work as a whole (for starters, the question as to why a hotel with such a macabre past would be allowed to continue to operate, let alone have clientele is never addressed, and the ending twist may leave audiences divided as to its effectiveness...). But 1408 looks and feels like such a staunchly quality work that such complaints often disintegrate once the film picks up upon the introduction of the titular room and the viewer is wrapped up by the superbly executed suspense generated throughout.

And while the film does dip rather heavily into conventions of previous similar works (the horrifying events Enslin is subjected to feel almost like a checklist of horror movie plot devices) the element which really makes the film worthwhile and excuses many of the inevitable lapses in logic is the psychological angle, leaving the audience consistently guessing as to whether the paranormal events are actually happening or whether the whole thing is occurring in the protagonist's feverish mind. While the screenplay varies between cleverly crafted lines and typical horror melodrama, the film proves an intriguing experiment in making use of a single space, and instead of the film being shot primarily in a single room proving limiting, Håfström manages to make it consistently fresh and engaging in its ever- changing state. The uncommonly innovative cinematography adds to the scare factor, as does Gabriel Yared's musical score, despite its frequent descent into horror cliché.

Despite the film being for the most part essentially a one man show, the inspired casting of John Cusack as Mike Enslin proves the film's most promising attribute. With only four walls and a floor to interact with for the bulk of the narrative, Cusack's quirky charisma proves the perfect element to provide a fresh touch to what could have collapsed into commercial formulaic monotony. With a brilliantly tuned, entirely credible rendition of a scarred cynic descending slowly into madness, Cusack resists the temptation to ham it up, and instead remains coolly understated, making it all the more unsettling as his composed exterior slowly unravels. Perfectly delivering many of his character's wittily verbose lines, Cusack sells the role with a commanding credibility few other actors could have mustered. Samuel L. Jackson also makes a strong impression in his brief scenes, and despite the almost unnecessary inclusion of his character, Jackson makes it worth the audience's while with a weighty gravitas which perfectly amps up the tension for the ensuing horror. Mary McCormack also does her best as the hideously conventional "distanced wife still attracted to the protagonist" figure, and emerges with a decent performance despite her almost criminally underdeveloped role.

What could have descended into commercial drivel under different circumstances instead proves a surprisingly intelligent and capably crafted psychological thriller, a merciful diversion from the trashy gore-fests inundating cinemas these days. While comparisons to earlier King adaptation The Shining among other works are inevitable, and despite the frequent reliance on formula, somehow new frights are extracted from age-old conventions, and with a strong directorial touch and an endlessly engaging lead performance 1408 proves a gruesomely entertaining bright spark in a fading ember of a genre, one which even the most jaded horror fans can appreciate and enjoy.

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like a very good feature-length episode of the Twilight Zone: surrealism and 'gotchas' at every corner
MisterWhiplash24 June 2007
It's a hit or miss thing with Stephen King movies. Sometimes there's an exceptional effort by someone with a really strong vision (eg Kubrick, De Palma), but then there are also some big blunders (Dreamcatcher comes first to mind). And then there are those that sort of lie right in the middle, as decent, unpretentious but unremarkable efforts that chill or spill into your living room or movie theater. 1408 isn't a great thriller, but for King fans it'll likely be one of the most faithful- or at least feel faithful- efforts to date, and as such it's pretty creepy and a sure-fire "gotcha" machine. The premise is vintage King: a cynical writer (Cusack) who's books go over the paranormal (with the exception of a personal book about a father and son), and gets sent an anonymous postcard about the Dolphin hotel and room 1408. The manager warns him, fervently, to not stay in the room. But he's insistent to the point where there's no turning back. Slowly, but extremely surely, things start popping up in the room, out of Elsin's own consciousness, perhaps, and as well with the environment changing (fix that heater!), and even a pint-sized version of the hotel manager (who doesn't want to see Jackon ala Indian in the Cupboard?).

It all leads up to a few good twists and turns, but good being the important word here. Unlike the unsuccessful pot-boiler Identity, which also (regrettably) starred Cusack, this isn't contrived for the sake of it. The sudden images of a man with an ax swinging at Elson, the images of ghosts jumping out of the windows (one of them, which I found extraordinary, was shown with the same marks that come with an old movie print), isolation enhanced by a lack of windows to either side, and that bottle of booze. Spiked? Probably not- this is a thrill-ride predicated on lightning-fast imagery, but too fast (it isn't Saw thank goodness), and Elsin's past, notably the death of his daughter. It's usually a conceit that the filmmaker puts in to have the central character to have a dark past loaded with sadness, but here it works effectively in how gradually it all comes out, and how the fear/acceptance of death is something just as, if not more-so, terrifying than anything else the room has to offer.

As I said, not a great film, as sometimes it has that feel of an all-too well-oiled machine by director Mikael Håfström, edging on feeling like there's a checklist somewhere of things to happen in the room to Elsin. But, as mentioned, it doesn't come off as being too unsurprising. On the contrary, there is some originality to how the special effects team- via Cusack, going through many modes of acting like it's a powerhouse audition- bring out the best of what can be offered with a horror-show amusement park. It may be in part like a ghost house, but it's a fun and exciting one, and more watchable than any other PG-13 horror film I've seen in a while. 7.5/10
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Pacing all off
Pete-23010 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Coulda been a contender, but just didn't take off. "Boo" thrillers like this should pick you up at the start and give you no time to think - just throw one shock at a time at you. This seemed almost static - every scare shot was telegraphed. Instatead of jumping out of my seat from surprise, I found myself thinking 'here comes another scare' and trying to guess what the scare would be. Even the twist at the end was clumsily edited - instead of grabbing you off kilter and making you jump, it was deliberately set up and held too long - multiple reaction shots from the two characters instead of scare - quick reax - black. leaving you breathing fast and your heart pounding. Quite a few careless and egregious continuity goofs also pulled me out of the movie repeatedly.

Liked Samuel L. Jackson, though - he had just the right combination of mystery and menace to leave you thinking about his role. Also, the quick pun in the beginning of the bellhop asking Mike if he could handle his "baggage" paid off nicely later in the film.
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A homicidal room with a view.
johnnyboyz7 September 2008
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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scared the heck out of me!
shilbrecht3 January 2008
First, I love John Cusack. Next, I used to love Stephen King when I was a teenager (now he scares me too much!). But I decided to watch this today on my On Demand in the middle of the afternoon in my family room while folding clothes. By the middle of the film, at 1:30 p.m., I was too scared to go in my basement to get any more clothes, so I just sat there and watched! This isn't a slasher type of scary. This is a get in your head and make you look behind you in case someone is lurking back there kind of scary. Sort of like The Shining (what is it with King and big, old hotels?) but not quite as scary, although almost.

Cusack's acting is excellent! I LOVED this movie, even though it scared the s**t out of me!
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"Relax," said the Nightman, "we are programmed to receive..."
Lucile Dudevante2 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
"... you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave!"

This movie might have been better had it ripped off more of that song. That's not to say that all of "1408" was a farce on "Hotel California": this was an original Stephen King story, after all, and there was no pink champagne on ice (rather a bottle of whisky)... and there were a lot less plot holes in the song. But in any case, if you substitute "Nightman" for "Creepy Voice on the Phone", you might end up with the basic plot of "1408".

You can read the basic plot of the story anywhere: angsty, moody writer Mike Enslin (our fabulously miscasted John Cusack) forces the manager of the Dolphin Hotel (our fabulously casted Samuel L. Jackson) to rent him a "haunted" hotel room. The only way this story differs from any other predictable haunted-hotel-room tale is in the way backstory is used: we get to know a lot about Enslin and how he became obsessed with the occult, ghosts, and hauntings, more than in the original Stephen King story.

However, the movie's fatal weaknesses are in (a) the main character himself, (b) gaping plot holes in the story, and (c) the fake plot twist halfway through.

Mike Enslin might be a fairly engaging character to some--he's funny, intelligent, and cynical. But a few scenes, in particular, were heartwrenchingly beautiful, and we come to feel very deeply for the star of this horror flick in a way that is just fundamentally unfitting, and the worst part is that this feeling ends up being thrown out by the end. There's no denying that Cusack is a great actor: but it totally broke the pace of the movie to have a heart-wrenching memory scene of Enslin's dying daughter Katy, right in between an earthquake and a flood. It simply didn't fit, particularly when, ten minutes later, Enslin lies under a sofa and started maniacally laughing.

Now, take "Identity", a 2003 horror film in which Cusack starred. His main character there was extraordinarily sympathetic, but that empathy didn't clash with the plot and action in the way this one did.

The crucial problem was this movie had as many plot holes as Pennsylvania has deer, not to put too fine a point on it, and THAT was where the heart-wrenching just didn't work. No one survives more than an hour in the room, and yes, the clock does begin a countdown from sixty minutes--but not until Enslin has gone over the room with a fine-tooth comb and a UV lamp, and an electrician has fixed the thermostat. Sure, no electronics work in 1408--except Enslin's computer, which somehow manages to pick up wireless even when the rest of the building somehow disappears. Yes, the room is playing with Enslin's psyche and bringing his daughter into the mess--but then why drag in the one extremely short and pointless scene with his father? And though Jackson's line of "That is one evil f#@%!ng room," might suffice for Enslin and for most moviegoers, I would have been pretty happy to find out just what is ACTUALLY going on in 1408.

I won't spoil the ending action, or even the stupidest fake plot twist to ever fakely twist a plot--go somewhere else in the movie comments for that. And I'm not going to lie: I really did like this movie as a noncommittal horror film, and I even enjoyed those heart-wrenching scenes between Enslin and Katy. (I can only hope they show up again in another Cusack film in the future.) But ultimately, the elements of fine acting and crappy horror just didn't mix well, and it really just became a noncommittal horror film, with no potential, and hopefully (oh God, please) no sequels.

Besides, all that kept running through my head were the words to "Hotel California." "Last thing I remember, I was running for the door... I had to find the passage back to the place that I was before..."
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Frightening and Disturbing
Adam Walker1 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I'm not a person that gets scared by cheap horror stories, not even when the master Stephen king is at his worst, but I certainly remember 1408. I read this short story quite a while ago right before bed, and I remember it made it quite hard to fall asleep after reading it. When I found out they'd made a movie out of it, I decided to see it as soon as i could and was not disappointed one bit.

The movie has managed to be just as disturbing as the book. This isn't a story of ugly monsters jumping out from the dark corners of a room, and while it does have a few of those of those gratuitous moments, the true horror in this movie lies within the psychological torture that john cusack's character is put thru. Everyone in the theater was leaning forward in their seats at the same time, and the calls of "oh my god" came from most people present as the entity tortures him in ways that are ever more cruel and disturbing.

I no longer remember the story well enough to know if it follows the book to the letter, but it doesn't have to and you don't care when you watch it.

John Cusack is flawless in his role, and he has to be since the movie is mostly just him alone with The Room. I did appreciate Samuel L Jackson as well, even though they seemed to have cast him just so he could drop an F bomb at the right time, which is getting tiring.

This story, whether it be in movie or book form, is not for the feint of heart, but if you want to see what true horror is about, this is one you can't miss.
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Am I missing something?
imdb-34583 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
After spotting the high rating on IMDb, I decided to go see this movie. Beyond that high rating, I intentionally avoided reading any of the reviews. I wanted to go into the theater with a clean slate, without knowing the plot or having predetermined expectations.

Given my rating, you can see that I was disappointed. I enjoyed the development of the main character Mike Enslin. I also enjoyed how the hotel manager attempted to talk him out of entering the hotel room. By the time Enslin entered the room, I was ready for some scary stuff.

First chocolates appear on the pillow and the toilet paper is folded. Enslin reacts in a believable manner. He's freaked out. I'm encouraged and think to myself, this is going to be good. The people who made this movie understand that less is more.

But it's what happens next that was a big let down. The subtleness is quickly replaced by the predictable shotgun approach... Just blast the audience with every Hollywood scary trick in the book and hope that something works. Let's see, a clock radio that turns on by itself? Good, that's always scary. Objects that move around in the room? Good, you can't complain about that. Blood dripping from the walls and sink? Great. Ghosts that commit suicide? Good. Anything else? How about loud noises, shaking, fire, more shaking, messing up the room, more blood, etc etc. It's all good. And it's all been done before. Overstimulate our Attention Deficit Disordered audience with all kinds of stuff in quick succession, and they won't be able to look away.

Well, it didn't work for me. And you know what else? When I go see a horror movie in a theater, it's typical to hear several groups of girls in the audience yelling in fear at scary moments. But this movie had no scary moments. The audience was silent and disinterested. I felt no chill down my spine. Nothing. The Shining was 100x what this movie tries to be.

So who are all these people who are saying that it is one of the best horror movies ever? Friends of the director? Sorry, I just don't get it.
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1408 (Spoilers)
Fsf10915 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Story vs. Movie

Whereas much of the short story takes place in the office of the hotel manager, Olin, and (after a short stint in the hotel room) follows Mike Enslin throughout the aftermath of his experience, the core of the movie takes place in the room 1408.

The author, portrayed to excellence by John Cusack, is self-assured, even a little cocky. His journey through haunted places in the world is more of a search for the supernatural for personal reasons rather than stemming from any real belief in the afterlife.

In the short story, the author is even more arrogant in his disbelief of the supernatural, though there is no personal connection for his search—he simply writes books on the subject and they have made him a great deal of money. But most of his bravado takes place in Olin's office, out of the reach of "the thing in that room." The hotel manager tries everything to convince him not to stay in 1408, and it seems that the long talk does have some impact on him; when he first reaches the infamous room, he believes that his eyes are playing tricks on him. The door looks crooked, then normal, then slanted again in the other direction until it is once again normal.

Things begin to happen almost immediately once he is inside the room. The paintings move, "something" tries to come into the space through the walls. To escape he finally decides to set himself on fire and is fortunate enough to escape, the flames put out by a passerby.

After the occurrence in room 1408, there is an obvious transformation in the main character. A sense of sadness and loneliness emanates from Enslin—a sense of defeat. It reminds me of the feeling that permeates another story in the collection, "Luckey Penny." Through the second half of the story, Mike Enslin carries himself as a man that will forever be looking over his shoulders at the shadows, imaging that "they" will somehow drag him back into the confines of the hotel room to finish off the job.

In the movie, this is not the case. Cusack, as Mike Enslin, portrays a sense of increased strength, the will of the fighter that has seen the true horrors and survived to tell the tale. Whereas in the story the character tries to immediately forget what happened, in the movie he is shown playing the tape of his trusty mini-recorder, listening to what is arguably one of the most horrifying moments from his stay in the hotel–his encounter with his dead daughter. When his wife walks into the living room, she is stunned, and the look on Enslin's face seems to say "Yes, it's all true." No fear, just a resignation to the fact that there is something else, and he's not entirely sure that is a good thing.

The story and the movie are both executed smoothly, though the horror in the story (aside from the few pages that take place in the room) is far more psychological. It's the type of fear that doesn't necessarily get the adrenaline gushing; rather it's the type of fear that puts an unsettling chill to the bones. The character experiences symptoms of someone that has lost his battle with life and perhaps with sanity–bad blood pressure, poor sight, bad nerves–he is old before his time. And as Enslin waits for his final days, he has the distinct feeling that whatever was in that room may be waiting for him on the other side.

In the film, the 70 minutes in the room are filled out with all sorts of nightmarish horrors—dead people appearing and disappearing, blood gushing from the walls, two particularly terrifying scenes in which Enslin sees himself die. At one point, he believes that he has escaped from the room, that is was all a nightmare brought about from a hit on the head with a surf board. Just as he believes that things are back to normal, he is thrust back into that nightmare of a room. However, instead of giving up, he keeps fighting. In a dramatic turn of the tables, he sets the room on fire and frees himself; in that action he makes sure (or does he?) that no person will ever be subjected to the inhuman presence in that room ever again.

I liked both versions, for different reasons. While for some the short story of "1408″ may play out as a biting-your-nails type of horror, I felt that there was something of the scare tactic of mind over matter at play. As if the experience was something that could have been a hallucination brought on by a little too much to drink and the clever wordplay of a desperate hotel manager looking to put the scare into someone that doesn't scare easily. It was something of a quiet horror that consisted more of Enslin's health problems resulting from the event and the very real manifestations of something that could have all been in his head. In the short story, even when the main character wins, he loses. The movie, on the other hand, consisted of edge-of-your-seat horror, the thrill ride that goes faster and faster. If you haven't yet viewed the movie, or read the short story, I suggest you do both and compare the terror for yourself.
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1408: A Portal into HELL
Brent Trafton22 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
"1408" is the best horror film to come out in several years. Unlike most horror films these days, it does not rely on gore and you don't leave the theater wanting to get your money back because you were cheated at the end. Some people may not like the ending but I thought it was like a good episode of "The Twilight Zone."

The thing I liked best about "1408" was that it is not just another haunted house. It is a customized portal into Hell that is made specifically for the inhabitant, in this case John Cusak. Also, the film has it's share of humor. The possessed clock radio in the room only plays The Carpenters. That must be Stephen King's idea of Hell.

If you have any inclination to see this film, you need to see it on the big screen. It is not going to translate well onto video. It stays away from the cheap tricks of other horror films and develops a creepy story instead. If you liked "The Ring" and "The Grudge," you will probably like "1408."
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More hammer lady, less dead girl
pseawrig28 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I don't see what everyone liked about this movie. The set-up was too long and talky, and when it was done, the main character remained as flat and opaque as he had been in the first scene. After the film finally got Cusack into the eponymous hotel room, I had to wonder, well, what's going to happen here for the next hour or so to keep me engaged. The answer: not much, just John Cusack having a long, drawn-out, mental breakdown.

Maybe if the Cusack character had more depth . . maybe if his freak-out were a more thorough reworking of his everyday life . . . maybe if the film had either better developed its half-baked themes about loss and faith or had not tacked them on in the first place . . . maybe if the film had made a choice to be either psychological horror or thrill-ride horror and had fully embraced one of these styles . . . I dunno. All I do know is that I saw this movie with two other horror buffs and none of us much liked it.

Except for the disquieting episode on the hotel ledge, the alarming crazy lady with the hammer, and the so-stupid-it-was-fun crypt keeper in the air duct, all three of which account for no more than five minutes of screen time, this film was a bore.

By the way, this story seems to steal ideas from The Shining and use them here to much less powerful effect. Is Stephen King now reduced to stealing ideas from himself?
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Fright-Free Horror Strikes Again
vitaleralphlouis25 October 2007
These days every parent has a child who's an honor student and straight A's can be earned by showing up in class with a pulse. In line with that we have some oddly positive ratings for a dull and stupid horror flick like 1408.

Being clear: There isn't a scary 2 seconds in 1408 from start to finish. The plot is a shallow rehash and the John Cusack character is not interesting enough to devote more than a single moment to concern about what happens to him. One scene grabbed my attention: When the window dropped and smashed (hurt) his fingers. Ouch! We can all relate to that, and it matters not whether demons or gravity drop the window. Either way it HURTS; for days!

A day earlier we'd seen Universal's 1934 "The Black Cat" with horror superstars Karloff and Lugosi. They knew how to make a horror movie at Universal in 1934 --- one that would last 75 years. They do not know how at Dimension Pictures in 2007, and Stephen King has been bankrupt on effective ideas for two decades. Boo, hiss!
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They put the "Horror" in "Horrible"
Greg Baughman8 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Can you say "All shock, no plot?" There were so many unexplored directions in this movie. There was no history about the room other than the deaths. *WHY* was it evil? What made it that way? Why an "hour" countdown? Then, there were the unexplored things hinted at; for example we *saw* a camera in the air vent, which he mentioned. But when he climbed up said vent, there was no camera.

How about the fact that all the ghosts looked "Digital", and things "winked out" before hitting the ground making a static noise? Hmmm... when you put all of *those* things together, it makes room 1408 look like a high-tech spook house. Except that there was no follow up on that.

Oh... by the way... electronics don't work in 1408. Well, except for the TV... the cell phone has no signal, but Wireless Internet works fine. How many incontinuities can you possibly add? I'm sorry, but this film was nothing but "shock after shock". It's all been done before. Reflections in the mirror. Things just out of site. Changing paintings. Bleeding walls. The "Oh, it was all just a dream... no it wasn't." And, if the room was "evil", why make our main character come to terms with his daughter's death, if it was going to keep him trapped there forever anyway? It just didn't make sense.

Additionally, there was no background information about "The first book" that he wrote. Just some vague information about the "dad was a jerk" and so forth. Speaking of dads, what was with the bit about his father? "You'll be in my place".

Overall, a truly HORRIBLE movie. It was 100% adrenalin shock factor, without any new or innovative effects, and certainly no back story, character development, etc.

My overall impression is that the entire movie was made on the "Cheap"; pretty much using one set and a couple of location shots, and was nothing but an effects film of recycled, cheesy, "seen-that-before" effects.
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Good movie! The director's cut is better!
reeves20028 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I loved this movie and saw it twice in the theater. I felt John carried the film nicely and I was not bored at all like some claim they were.The effects were good, and the scene where Mike Enslin is walking along the outside ledge of the hotel 14 floors off the ground trying to escape had me panicking it was so real.I guess maybe it's my fear of heights but even now when I watch it on the DVD it's scary.SunburnM29 commented that they hated the ending because it was a typical Hollywood ending where Enslin shouldn't die because it would upset the audience.I agree with him and am grateful there is a director's cut with an alternate ending where the character does die instead of surviving the room.I prefer the alternate ending because it is more believable.The theatrical ending was stupid the way it ended. Now I want to read the Stephen King short story after watching both versions of this movie.I prefer the extended director's cut because the scene in the vent was longer and was explained better.
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