The Cinefessions crew loves sharing their opinions on films, but not every movie can get the attention it deserves with a full review. Enter the Cinefessions’ Capsule Reviews. These capsule reviews cover five of the most important aspects of a film, which allow the crew to deliver their opinions on any movie clearly, decisively, and with brevity. These are not our full thoughts on any film, just a highlighting of the major pros and/or cons.

1408_mech_052407.inddTitle: 1408 (2007)
Director: Mikael Håfström
Runtime: 104 minutes

1408 represents a time when all of John Cusak’s movies weren’t DTV releases, but saw theatres. Cusak is the star and carries the entire film. He does an excellent job in this role, and it’s hard to understand why he doesn’t get more roles like this nowadays. Samuel L. Jackson plays the manager of the Dolphin hotel, and he does well, as usual. There is nothing outstanding about the rest of the cast outside of Cusak simply because they don’t much. This is definitely a John Cusak vehicle, and he steers the ship to success.

Story & Script
This is based on a Stephen King short story, and it is one the better King adaptations. Cusak plays Mike Enslin, a writer that stays at supposedly haunted hotel rooms across the country and ranks them based on their scare factor. The thing is, Mike has never actually seen any paranormal activity, and doesn’t believe in any of it. He receives a mysterious postcard of The Dolphin hotel in Manhattan with only the words “do not enter room 1408”, or something to that accord. He adds up the 1, 4, 0, and 8, and gets the number 13. Finding this clever, he does more research on the hotel, and specifically, the room. He discovers that there have been numerous deaths associated to the room, and decides that staying there would make a great closing chapter for his book. Obviously this room will turn out to be evil or this wouldn’t be a Stephen King adaptation. On one hand the story works well. It delivers a few genuine scares. But on the other hand, the story falls short, and that is the human half of things. I have seen this film probably four or five times in the past, and have watched both cuts multiple times (the director’s cut has a very different ending than the theatrical, and is arguably better; I watched the theatrical cut this time around). The story about Enslin’s past, his seperating from his wife after their child dies at a young age, feels more like a cheap add-on to gain sympathy for the character than anything else. I don’t really care much about that half of the story, and instead just want to see where the heck this room will take him. If more emphasis was placed on the horror elements of the film, 1408 may have stood the test of time a bit better. That said, I obviously enjoy this movie a great deal, having watched it as much as I have.

I’ve not seen any of Mikael Håfström’s other films, but he demonstrates a knack for finding genuine scares in 1408. There are a few tense moments that build up quite well, and he makes the most of his one major setting (the hotel room). It’s crazy to think that there are so many different endings to this film, and I have to wonder which one the director actually prefers. I’ve seen all of them, and definitely have my favorite, but I have to wonder why so many were made in the first place. Otherwise, the director shows a natural knack for directing horror, and it makes me want to check out The Rite, which I’ve heard nothing positive about since its release a few years back.

The director relies on the viewer buying into what Samuel L. Jackson’s character is trying to sell at the beginning of the film. Fortunately, it works tenfold, and even when Cusak is just standing at the door, looking at the room number, a chill runs down my spine. This film was incredibly effective when I first saw in theatres – I can admit to screaming at one point, which made my friends laugh out loud in the theatre – and though I see more flaws with the story today, I can still appreciate the first hour of this film a great deal. The second slows down a bit, but it never gets boring or bad at any time.

1408 has a lot of replay value, mostly because of all the different endings. I’m sure I’ll watch again in the future.

The Verdict
1408 scared the hell out of me when I first saw it in theatres, and though time has cooled its effectiveness, it’s still a solid horror film, and one of the better Stephen King adaptations. John Cusak shines as the star, and I can still fully recommend this to anyone who hasn’t gotten a chance to check it out yet.