Question: what do you get if you throw a cynically depressed John Cusack and a sinisterly dynamic Samuel L Jackson into a Stephen King movie adaptation helmed by Sweden’s own Mikael Håfström?
Answer: one of this year’s darkest and most original horror movies, 1408.
Adapted from the Stephen King short story of the same name 1408 stars John Cusack as writer Mike Enslin. Enslin is the author of several books on haunted places and has come to the conclusion that Ghosts do not exist. That is however until he receives a postcard from the Dolphin Hotel in New York City, saying ‘do not enter 1408’.
Intrigued, Enslin follows this up and lands in New York where he meets the creepy hotel manager Mr. Olin, played by Samuel L Jackson. Olin insists that Enslin doesn’t stay in room 1408 because everyone that has stayed in the room has wound up dead in under an hour. Enslin eventually persuades a reluctant Olin to let him stay in 1408 and an onslaught of psychologically traumatizing horrors follow. It is at this point that the movie becomes very fascinating.
The majority of the movie is set in room 1408 and at the outset this sounds pretty boring; John Cusack sitting around a hotel room for just under two hours with the occasional appearance of Samuel ‘Snakes on a Plane’ Jackson. As with a book, you can never judge a movie by its cover.
Every horror scene in 1408 will have you jumping in your seat. It doesn’t so much rely on in-your-face-gore like traditional horror movies do, but it is more psychological. It is subtle, disturbing and dark. There are several gory scenes in the movie, but not to the point that blood and guts are spattered over the walls.
Håfström has done a brilliant job here with both the story and the horror. The characters, most notably Enslin, are developed fairly well and the story plays out nicely with the horror sequences.
Elements not found in most modern horror movies are a well adapted story, excellent casting, on point direction and some great acting. 1408 has these and a tad more.