Monday, September 3, 2007


Good Stephen King film adaptations are hard to come by, kind of like ghosts, if you think about it.
Michael Enslin (John Cusack) is a jaded soul, who believes in nothing, not even God. He is also the author of a series of “Ghost Survival Guides” (with titles like 10 Haunted Hotels, 10 Haunted Lighthouses, and yes, 10 Haunted Graveyards), a job which entails spending the night at purportedly spectre-plagued establishments and writing cheesy guide books about them.
The dreary routine of his so-called life is thrown into disarray however, when, along with pamphlets of establishments hoping to be written up by Enslin in his next Ghost Survival Guide, he receives a postcard in the mail, which warns him not to stay in Room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel in New York.
He does, of course, kicking off the disturbing goings-on in Mikael Hafstrom‘s 1408.

Based on a short story by King, 1408 is largely set in the eponymous hotel room, as we watch Cusack attempt to weather the paranormal attack the room wages on him. Duly warned by Dolphin Hotel manager Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson), Enslin doggedly insists on staying the night, thus paying the price for his cynical arrogance.
With a set-up of this sort, the majority of the film’s running time is spent with Enslin in 1408, in real time, as he is assaulted by the sinister force that lives in the room. It’s to the credit of Hafstrom and cinematographer Benoit Delhomme (Anthony Minghella’s Breaking and Entering and John Hillcoat’s The Proposition) that a hotel room that looks perfectly innocuous seems to exude a malevolent air, once the disturbances go into full swing.
And it’s to Cusack’s credit, that Mike Enslin comes across as a protagonist we can empathize with. Cusack submits a tired, wounded man for our close inspection, a man bereft of hope, who comes face to face with the irrational, forcing him to come to grips with his personal demons, or die trying.

Swedish director Hafstrom made his mark on global cinema with notable films like the Oscar-nominated Ondskan (Evil) and Strandvaskaren (Drowning Ghost), before entering the Hollywood mainstream with the Clive Owen/Jennifer Aniston-starrer, Derailed.
In 1408, he presents us with a cinematic experience that plays like a particularly effective funhouse ride: by turns creepy and disturbing, yet ultimately, entertaining.
There are no deep truths to be found in 1408, just good old fashioned scares. This may not be a stand-out, potential modern classic in the annals of cinematic horror, but it does have a number of sequences that get the job done (the CSI moment is memorably chilling).
This also does for The Carpenters what Final Destination did for John Denver, and any film that can turn an overplayed oldie into a total creepfest really should be seen solely on principle.

(1408 OS courtesy of

No comments: