1408(director: Mikael Håfström; screenwriters: Matt Greenberg, Scott Alexander/Larry Karaszewski/based on a Stephen King short story; cinematographer: Benoit Delhomme; editor: Peter Boyle; music: Gabriel Yared; cast: John Cusack (Mike Enslin), Samuel L. Jackson (Gerald Olin), Mary McCormack (Lily Enslin), Jasmine Jessica Anthony (Katie Enslin), Tony Shalhoub (Sam Farrell), Len Cariou (Father); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Lorenzo de Bonaventura; MGM and Dimension Films; 2007)
“Only made me scream in agony on how hokey it was.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It’s based on a Stephen King short story called “1408” and directed by Mikael Håfström (“Derailed”); the Swede turns it into another old-fashioned King scary tale that only made me scream in agony on how hokey it was. Cusack plays his usual self-absorbed cute and emotionally vulnerable self, this time going bonkers in a haunted hotel and wanting us to share his revelations that despite his suffering it’s all for the good. It’s written in a cheesy style by Matt Greenberg, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who try to get every phony Hollywood version of a fright scene into their slight script and should get an A for providing a laundry list of creepy scares that would make any second-rate horror story filmmaker proud. It’s the kind of garbage spook tale that calls for more than a little suspension of belief—it calls for the viewer to experience a lobotomy.

Mike Enslin (John Cusack) is a cynic, who is a nonbeliever in ghost tales and is a hack writer renown for having a blast debunking paranormal events in hotels and writing a series of books on tour guides of haunted places based on his experiences. Our boy Mike is also haunted by the recent loss of his young daughter Katie (Jasmine Jessica Anthony) to an illness, which made the sensitive lad so sensitive he left his sensitive wife Lily (Mary McCormack) to work things out by his lonesome. That might not sound right, but it’s the way the story goes.

Our boy Mike takes up the challenge of checking into the notoriously haunted room 1408 in the Dolphin Hotel in New York City, despite being warned by the slick and oily hotel manager Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson) that it’s too dangerous to stay there because 56 deaths have occurred in that room since the hotel opened in 1912 and no one can last there more than one hour (so why board the room up, when you can just keep it unoccupied!). Our boy is in no mood to be refused, as the publisher’s mouthpiece tells their author the room has to be rented if a guest wants it or face a civil rights lawsuit. Mike is anxious to knock-off the final chapter in his book “Ten Nights in Haunted Hotel Rooms,” and gets to spend the night in the room.

The supposed fun in this shallow undertaking is watching Cusack relate to the room and all the gimmickry special effects such as ghosts jumping out windows, a clock radio blaring out of control to air whenever it pleases the Carpenters’ sugary pop hit “We’ve Only Just Begun,” windows slamming without reason, both bathroom faucets releasing scalding water, strange noises, bursting walls, getting locked inside with no possible escape and many more such chilling incidents. Predictably this lousy hotel stay has the writer confront his inner demons and after the nighttime ordeal our boy arrives at a healthier attitude in respecting the supernatural and the unknown, and reconciles with his wife.

Though it tries to emulate Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” Cusack’s crazy guy characterization doesn’t voice the same scares or camp as did Nicholson in his haunting cries of “Heeeere’s Johnny!”


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”