1408 (Hafstrom, 2007)

Stephen King loves injecting evil into everyday objects, whether it be the car Christine, the dog Cujo, or in the case of 1408, an entire room. Mikael Hafstrom’s film version of the King short story is rail thin in terms of character, but the plot setup and execution are so solid one forgives it quite easily. John Cusack’s gothic novelist Mike Enslin writes books about haunted spots, debunking their sordid histories by doing a sort of travelogue expose on the lack of paranormal activity. So when Mike makes up his mind to stay in the famous death room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel in NYC (managed by the great Samuel L. Jackson), we know he’s due for a comeuppance. The visuals are first rate, Hafstrom and Cusack using mood and performance to exhibit a sense of doubt moprhing into dread with increasing effectiveness. Walls turn to ice, blood oozes from walls, and a tiny radio wreaks some serious mental havoc. While the scares don’t have much guts (that is gore), they resonate with Mike’s guilt, the past memories of a dying daughter manifesting quite clearly and painfully . I wish Mike’s cracked psychology could have retained a little more grit, since the room’s horror feels a bit much compared to Mike’s past sins. However, 1408 is all about overcoming wasted talent, a fine theme for a film about a room which fleshes your past regrets and fears into the forefront over and over again, forcing you to “get busy living, or get busy dying.”

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