1408. (2007) DIRECTED BY MIKAEL HAFSTROM. BASED ON THE SHORT STORY BY STEPHEN KING. STARRING JOHN CUSACK, SAMUEL L. JACKSON, TONY SHALHOUB, MARY MCCORMACK AND JASMINE JESSICA ANTHONY. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. © I don’t normally dig John Cusack too much, but he’s really good in this better-than-average Stephen King movie adaptation. Based on his short story, which you can find in the 2002 collection, EVERYTHING’S EVENTUAL, it has John Cusack as Mike Enslin, a writer who once wrote a very good book with feeling and humanity, but who now writes these sort of guide books to America’s haunted places. He visits them, cynically and rudely dismisses their claims to be haunted, and then pens niche books about them. How does a sceptical non-believer in other worlds or the other side write books about haunted hotels, castles, churches and other places, when he doesn’t even believe in ghosts or life after death? I don’t know, but it’s what he does for a living. I loved the book signing in the bookstore at the beginning of the film, when only four people come to hear Mike Enslin read from his new book. Writing is such a hard, thankless job. I know how he feels. He even tells his four listeners that he’d be delighted to experience a ghostly sighting but that there’s no chance of that because there’s no such things as ghosts. Buzzkill… Like, does he even want to sell his bloody books or what? It almost seems like he’s sabotaging himself, carrying on like that. His next assignment is to stay in the Dolphin Hotel, in the titular Room 1408, which is supposed to be so haunted that no-one stays in the room for longer than an hour. After some hoo-ha designed to prevent a deeply sarcastic Mike from renting the room, 1408 is opened up by the hotel manager, a slick and polished Samuel L. Jackson as Mr. Gerald Olin. There’s some good snappy dialogue between the two men when Olin is showing Enslin to his room of choice. Enslin soon is left alone in the ‘evil’ room, in which fifty-six guests are reputed to have died since the hotel opened. He confides in his micro-walkie-talkie Dictaphone thing that he’s a little disappointed in the lack of any spectral action, but suddenly the sound of the Carpenters’ biggest hit, WE’VE ONLY JUST BEGUN, breaks out into an otherwise silent room and even the non-believing Mike Enslin has to admit that the haunted hotel room is finally starting to kick some ass… The Carpenters’ music has been used more than once in horror movies, I do believe. There’s the shark attack movie, 48 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED, that I know of for definite. The Carpenters’ music can be rather eerily heard underwater in an area that a scientist is working on, not far from where a giant Great White Shark is prowling. A shark that’s blind from decades of living underwater in the darkest, murkiest water, but who can still find you, and kill you… Hey, wait a minute, we’re not reviewing 48 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED here, lol, though it is a terrific shark attack flick, and much better than the first film in the series, 48 METERS DOWN. I don’t know what it is about the Carpenters’ music that makes it so effective on a horror movie soundtrack, but I do know it can be spooky. Maybe it’s the tragic untimely death of the lead singer Karen Carpenter that allows the music to lend itself to feelings of unsettling eeriness. BIRDS SUDDENLY APPEAR features in terrific chick flick GIRL, INTERRUPTED, in a genuinely unsettling scene in which one girl from the mental institution discovers the suicide of another. And then finally there’s Lisa Simpson from THE SIMPSONS in the Senor Ding-Dong episode, though this isn’t horror: ‘Mom, I have a test tomorrow in BIRDS SUDDENLY APPEAR…!’ John Cusack is so good in this, as the bored, jaded, disaffected writer who finally learns that things that go bump in the night actually do exist. I don’t like the bits with his whingy deceased daughter in them: ‘Daddy, Daddy, don’t you wuv me anymore?’ and so on, but, generally, all the things he sees in Room 1408 are pretty damn scary. As someone who’s scared of heights, I was actually the most scared by the bit where Mike was out on the ledge of the Dolphin Hotel, dozens if not hundreds of feet above the unforgiving stone sidewalk, trying to make it to the next room along, but then the other rooms all disappear, leaving a petrified Mike with no choice but to return, inch by agonising inch… to Room 1408… Of course, the movie will remind you of King’s classic ‘haunted hotel’ movie, THE SHINING, in which the entire hotel (The Overlook), not just one room, is haunted to buggery. The film also put me in mind of two Netflix shows featuring those fantastic massive old creepy apartment buildings and New York hotels with hundreds of rooms. One is CRIME SCENE: THE VANISHING AT THE CECIL HOTEL, which deals with the true life disappearance of young female guest, Elisa Lam. The other is ARCHIVE 81, a fictional show that chronicles the crimes and cultish goings-on in an apartment building called the Visser. That kind of hotel room/apartment building vibe can also, of course, bring ROSEMARY’S BABY to mind, a wonderful horror movie in which the building itself is part of the evil, almost a character in itself. The friends from FRIENDS all live in a similar apartment building, but the scariest thing that ever happened there was the dessert Rachel once cooked that had minced beef in it… By the way, Mike’s publisher here is played by the guy who used to be MONK. Remember MONK? Also, Samuel L. Jackson is in this but he doesn’t say ‘muthafucka,’ only one rather mild ‘fuck,’ or shoot anybody or say, ‘I am so sick of these muthafuckin’ snakes on this muthafuckin’ plane!,’ so please be aware of this while watching the movie, as you may be triggered by his atypical, non-threatening behaviour… Anyway, will Room 1408 defeat Mike, or will Mike conquer Room 1408 and leave the Dolphin Hotel a wiser, humbler man, with more respect for all things occult? You’ll have to watch the film to find out, but it’ll be well worth your while, even if it is about fifteen minutes too long. I do love it when Stephen King writes about writing and writers, though. Talk about write what you know…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: