1408 (review)

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Skeptical writer (John Cusack: The Ice Harvest) authors books about ghosts and spooky stuff but doesn’t believe a word of it… until he stays in Room 1408 at New York’s fabled (and nonexistent) Dolphin Hotel, where the freaky hauntings will turn your hair white, or would do, if you were expected to survive. Now, if you — in the audience — are in the tiny minority of incredulous people in this country, knowing what you know about how skepticism is typically treated by our credulous pop culture, then you’d be fully justified in anticipating a hearty smackdown of skepticism, but deliciously enough, this adaptation of a Stephen King short story takes the opposite tack: that a hearty dose of doubt is the best way to approach the paranormal, even if it does actually happen to be real. But that’s all icing on the cake. Sure, this is pretty much an episode of The Twilight Zone, but it’s a really, really good episode of The Twilight Zone, largely because of the magic of Cusack, who shucks his usual irresistible gosh-darn charm for a mellow but muscular intensity that his fans may find surprisingly profound but equally watchable.

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Sat, Jun 23, 2007 2:47am

Just got home from seeing a midnight showing of 1408… while it did have its genuine scary moments and the requisite number of “boo!” moments, it wasn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be. A good performance from Cusack, and Samuel L. chewed the scenery nicely. I did notice a few Stephen King story devices that have been recycled from some of his other works (Cat’s Eye, Christine, and especially The Shining), but they still work pretty well and integrated smoothly into the story.

I give it a B+.

Tue, Jun 26, 2007 1:46pm

Thanks for the recommendation. As a RL skeptic, I get a little annoyed with movies that take the POV that skeptics are naive and stupid, so a movie that says, “Yes, it’s good to be a little skeptical, even when there really are things that go bump in the night,” is a good thing. I’ll have to check it out! =^)

Wed, Jul 04, 2007 8:51pm

I’m not a fan of the horror-through-random imagery genre myself. Still, this one was going well for a while, until it stepped all over itself at the end.

Tue, Jul 10, 2007 11:59pm

Been a fan of the blog for years, so I’m sorry to have to chime in now and disagree with a review, but here I go.

I felt this film was a let-down in every possible way. I went expecting to find a thrilling (perhaps even scary) movie about the supernatural, and instead found a rather formulaic ‘haunted house’. But the real let down for me was the story itself. It seemed to me like the film got so caught up in trying to be more than a thriller that it forgot to be a thriller at all: queue the completely random “scary man with a hatchet/hammer who has nothing to do with the story whatsoever”…boogeyman yells “Boo!” and suddenly we’re supposed to be back in a thriller. The story, in the end felt flat, like a film that couldn’t decide what it was going to be, too dull to be a thriller, too heavy-handed to be an artistic examination of the grieving process, too vacuous to be cautionary.

I was very disappointed.