1408 (2007) – Mikael Hafstrom

John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson star in this big screen adaptation of the Stephen King short story. Cusack, who has always been a favourite of mine, is Mike Enslin, a writer who cranked out one good (and seemingly forgotten novel) and after a personal tragedy, which had him walking out on his grief-stricken wife (Mary McCormack)struck became a skeptic who, at his core, wants to believe because he misses his daughter.

But he hides behind the cynical writer persona cranking out books like The 10 Scariest Hotels. He’s approached by people the country over hoping to be rated in his guides. One postcard, from New York, catches his attention with its warning about the Dolphin Hotel, and specifically, room 1408.

With a little finagling and discussion with the less than thrilled hotel manager, Olin (Jackson), Enslin gets the key with a few last warnings, including a full history of all the deaths, suicides and natural, that occurred there, and the reveal that no one has survived more than an hour in the room.

Enslin laughs it off as a moody and well-presented sales pitch, but once he takes up residence in the room all bets are off as he is confronted by what Olin says is not a haunted place, just an ‘evil fucking room.’

The room pushes Mike further than he’s willing to go, and he is confronted by the reality that there is true evil, and there is also life after death.

Cusack is a marvel. I love watching him act, he just has this natural delivery and behaviour that allows the viewer to buy into his character and his performance. All the scares throughout the film are very well earned, except for the final one in the director’s cut of the film, which is obviously NOT Cusack.

The story is powerful, and the idea that it all happens (for the most part) in this one location gives it a very claustrophobic feel and lets Cusack shine as Mike slowly becomes more and more unhinged by what he is experiencing.

The film captures the tone of the story, though, of course, there are some changes, but it all seems to work for the betterment of the film. It just starts with a rush and doesn’t let up until the last moments, no matter which version of the film you watch (there are a couple of different endings floating around out there).

This one shows that you don’t have to be Mike Flanagan to do a Stephen King film right (though I’m sure that helps) and as long as you have a solid cast, a smartly penned script, and don’t skimp on the effects and sequences you will find your audience, and you will do the story justice.

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