The summer season is here folks and that means a time of enjoyment and relaxation should be attainable. Perhaps you’re long overdue for a vacation and with that in mind, staying at a hotel sounds like a promising gesture. But be wary of where you stay because you never know what lurks in the room that you’ll soon be checking into. Hotels themselves can be a bit strange when you first enter them due to the fact that this is a place that you yourself are unfamiliar with and staying in a room where someone prior did, can give us certain thoughts that cross our minds. 1408 is a movie that examine such thoughts and places the audience into a room that delivers more that anyone could’ve bargained for.
“Based on a story by Stephen King” is a phrase that most horror fans are familiar with and 1408 is a movie that’s more interested in conveying an intriguing story than delivering a scare fest and the result is a film that stands out in the realm of the many Stephen King adaptations. With the popularity of the third entry in the main Conjuring Universe releasing earlier this month, let’s return to the room that no one dares enter and those who do, they typically don’t last more than an hour.
The plot of 1408 is simple enough. Mike Enslin (John Cusack) makes a living as an author who debunks supernatural events at notorious “haunted houses” being a skeptic of ghosts or the paranormal. After publishing his latest novel, Mike receives a postcard informing him about the Dolphin Hotel with a note saying “Don’t enter 1408.” The hotel is located in New York while Mike lives in Los Angeles. Upon arriving at the hotel, Mike has experienced issues with booking the room. He called the hotel prior to his arrival and requested the said room only to be told, “It’s not available.” Mike didn’t say the dates in which he would plan his stay and is more or less surprised by what he heard over the phone.
When Mike arrives at the hotel, he meets the manager named Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson) who does everything he can to dissuade Mike from entering 1408. Oh, if you haven’t done so already, the numbers of the hotel room add up to the number thirteen. A telling number for those who are superstitious. The room itself has a long history in conjunction with the hotel. In the nearly one-hundred-year-old operation of the Dolphin Hotel there have been fifty-six deaths in that particular room. Each death is unique in their right and all of them have been notable for the simple fact that each guest doesn’t last more than an hour from the time of checking in to their untimely demise.
Mike already knows a good amount of history that’s tied to the room and is eager to disprove everything that has been already been said regarding 1408. Mike nevertheless gets the key to the room, and that’s when the real horror starts.
After entering the room and equipping his tape recorder, Mike is rather unimpressed with the room. It’s just your standard hotel room with some unique features but otherwise, nothing really special. Mike realizes that things are starting to get weird including a digital clock on the nightstand counting down from sixty minutes. A neat trick devised by Olin as assumed by Mike. Turns out that the room is indeed holding a secret. A secret that can’t be easily understood by outsiders, but only by the occupants in the room. 1408 uses everything in your life against you in order to secure a rightful place to have you as its next victim. The reason why isn’t the point of the film, but experiencing the pain of one’s sorrow is.
I won’t reveal too much here for those who haven’t seen this movie yet, but the main theme of the movie is grief. Mike lost his daughter years ago which resulted in the collapse of his marriage. 1408 is able to recognize the grief that has altered Mike and is using those painful memories in order to fulfill the need to claim another victim. There are five stages of grief and Mike displays every one of them in order as the film progresses and the room unveils its true form. While the movie isn’t scary in traditional terms, the very idea of being trapped somewhere and the only thing you see are the painful memories that happened to you is quite a frightening idea in and of itself.
There are three endings to this film and while the theatrical ending is quite good, the other too, especially the Director’s Cut are much darker in tone and feel more appropriate when considering the themes present in the film. In a way, Mike wins in the end, but a price is due as well. Both Cusack and Jackson are great in this movie, with Cusack acting as a one-man show for majority of the film. Everything that happens in the room feels all too real and seeing Mike experience each and every memory is something that can tug in the strings for audiences who have suffered through loss such as Mike has.
1408 is a fun, ghost movie that uses all the tools in traditional ghost stories to be effective, although the movie is interested more in its story than cheap thrills- something that is quite commendable. I myself, have never had to endure an experience in a hotel room such as Mike did but after seeing the movie, I am tempted to grab a recorder and black light to examine the room I plan on staying in next. While 1408 may not be as hard-hitting or encompassing as The Shining, it’s still a good movie in its own right. With stellar direction, a well-written script and an engrossing performance by John Cusack all add up to making 1408 a fun ghost movie that delivers the goods and invited the audience to experience one man’s hell that perhaps will remind them of the loss that some of them have dealt with.
What other ghost movie impacted you in way that 1408 did. For one thing, seeing a good ghost story without all the jump scares is a real gem to keep an eye on and 1408 is one film worth returning to over and over again. Just be wary of checking into a hotel room with those matching numbers though!