Science fiction and fantasy                                            


directed by Mikael Håfström

1408 poster  
Michael Enslin is an occult writer, the type of semi-autobiographical character that crops up frequently in Stephen King's work. This film is an adaptation of one of his short stories.

Enslin isn't exactly a failing writer, but his book signings are quiet affairs. Part of the problem is his cynicism about the things he is investigating, and his lack of conviction. After spending countless nights in allegedly haunted locations he has yet to see a ghost, and he believes that a lot of the hauntings are the inventions of people who just want to attract more visitors to their hotels.

Enslin gets a postcard tipping him off about room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel. He assumes that it's just another non-spooky room, but when he finds it extraordinarily difficult to get a booking his interest is piqued. The hotel manager (Samuel L. Jackson) does his best to dissuade him from taking the room, putting in a convincing performance that effectively builds up the suspense before Enslin even sets foot in the room.

But the author is not to be put off. He's determined to get a great final chapter for his latest book, and he sees this room as his opportunity. Stories of nobody ever lasting an hour inside it just seem to attract him all the more.

Once inside, the creepiness soon picks up. The room itself seems to be almost sentient, and out to get him and mess with his mind. Almost anything that can go wrong in a room does. But it also attacks him psychologically, reminding him of the guilt he feels about the way he has lived his life. Michael Enslin isn't a bad person, but he's lived through more than his fair share of misfortune.

The trouble with a horror film set in just one room is that it risks turning into a festival of navel-gazing. The film avoids this in various ways, so there's enough action to keep things moving. As far as scare value is concerned, 1408 is tense and suspenseful, but it's short of absolutely terrifying. This might be because getting trapped in a malevolent room isn't a situation that most of us fear or identify with. Now, if there were giant spiders, zombie clowns or slavering reptilian aliens locked in there with him ... I don't want to over-analyse this, but ghosts and freaky, macabre visions just don't have the impact that they used to.

1408 has an unconventional ending for this genre, and it doesn't follow a clichéd plot. However it isn't all that difficult to see through on of the major plot twists that comes in the second half of the movie. John Cusack puts in a good performance as the increasingly disturbed author, but the trouble is, this is a film that's not really about anything important. It pushes a few of our fear buttons, but you won't come out of it feeling wiser or more culturally enriched for having watched it. It's a passable movie, but that's as far as it goes.

Film Details

Year: 2007

Categories: Films


Classification: 15

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3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson