When Samuel L. tells you not to go into the room, DO NOT go into that room!
After a string of best-sellers discrediting paranormal events in the most infamous haunted houses and graveyards around the world, he scoffs at the concept of an afterlife. Mike Enslin (John Cusack)’s phantom-free run of long and lonely nights is about to change forever when he checks into suite 1408 of the notorious Dolphin Hotel for his latest project. Defying the warnings of the hotel manager (Samuel L Jackson), the author is the first person in years to stay in the reputedly haunted room.
If there is ever a person who should be allowed to Stephen King adaptations, it’s Frank Darabont. Sadly, the guy was nowhere to be found with this one and because of that, look what we got! Damn you Darabont!
Before I get into the negatives of this film, let me just start off by saying that director Mikael Håfström does a lot here and I think he at least deserves some praise for taking what is essentially a story that could be told in 30 minutes, and stretching it way, way out to an hour and 30 minutes. There’s not a lot here that happens, other than Cusack facing off against this room and the evil spirits that lie within, but Håfström keeps it somewhat interesting by starting us off slowly with tiny amounts of tension, that only continues to build and build, until shit gets way too out-of-hand. Håfström seems like he wanted to make this material and have fun with it, which he is somewhat successful in doing, it’s just a shame that there wasn’t much else here to hold onto.
Let me start off by saying that this is a horror movie, without any type of horror whatsoever. Actually, that’s not right to say because there probably is some stuff here that would scare the bajeebers out of certain people, but for me, I didn’t once get frightened by anything I saw on-screen and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that Håfström starts to get a bit too carried away with his budget. The film started off perfectly with little spooky things happening here and there, but then once things start to get crazier and crazier and actually pick up, then Håfström just lets all of this annoying and fake-looking CGI take over the film just to show how much havoc this room is causing. Not only doesn’t it look scary, but it’s also a bit goofy in a way that made me chuckle unintentionally and it kept on coming at me, too. After about the 4th wipe-out Cusack has with a random wave of water coming into the bathroom, I was starting to get annoyed, but oh wait, there’s drama that’s needed here as well! Great….
In case you couldn’t tell by that last sentence, there was barely any drama here whatsoever that glued me in once things started to get goofy. There was a very tragic death that has occurred in the lead character’s life that is very, very sad, I’ll give him that, but it’s pretty obvious where they were going to go with it and how they were going to incorporate it into the story, which seemed so damn cheap. And just about everything else that concerns anything dramatic with this dude’s life is what really took me out of the film because as much fun as this whole haunted-house aspect of the film seemed to be, it never really went anywhere with itself other than being just that, just like the dramatic aspect of this movie as well. Yeah, neither part of this movie barely went anywhere, that’s why you should always depend on the stars to give you their top-caliber performances and save the day.
Thank heavens that John Cusack was in this movie because the man freakin’ saved the day here with his performance as “the non-believer in ghosts” writer, Mike Enslin. Cusack is always an actor that turns out great work, year after year, and barely ever gets recognized for it and I think this is one of the rare films where we see him for all that he is when it comes to what kind of work he can pull off. Since this all takes place in the room (I think), it’s all John Cusack for the longest time and he’s left to basically one-man show this bitch up and does a great job by making it all seem believable, especially by the end when he starts to lose a little bit of his mind. Cusack definitely makes this film and the material he’s working with, a hell of a lot more watchable just because of his presence and it’s a great show-case of an actor that in my opinion, doesn’t get as many roles as I think he should.
Oh yeah, and let’s not forget to mention Samuel L. Jackson in his teensie-tiny, itty-bitty role as the hotel manager, Mr. Olin. As always, Samuel L. is great with this material and makes his bit-role almost as memorable as Cusack’s and both of them have a very nice scene where they both play off of each other very well and you see the real fun of this film actually come out. Sadly, it was somewhat short-lived once Cusack opened that room’s door. Why John!?!? Why?!??
Consensus: Cusack makes 1408 a hell of a lot better than it has any right to be, but it’s almost not enough due to barely any scares, too much lame CGI, lame drama, and an ever lamer ending that makes you wonder how many times these writers re-wrote this ending over-and-over again just to hit the right spot, but ended up doing the opposite.