If you believe in urban legends, there are some pretty nifty ones out there regarding hotel rooms. You know, the ones about not requesting for a room with a double bed when you're alone, or to check under the bed, cupboards for erm, extras, or the golden rule to knock before entering. Pah! you may say, but some deem them standard operating procedures as you just do not know the history behind the strange room you're going to spend the night in.
Based on a short story by horror maestro Stephen King, 1408 is a horror tale about an evil hotel room. It's so evil, that the entire movie for the most parts is devoted in that single room itself. You can say that the room is the star of the movie, but I'd rather give that kudos to one of my favourite character actors, John Cusack. Cusack plays writer Mike Enslin, whose popular works include his accounts in checking out supposedly haunted hotel rooms, with scientific equipment in tow and a cynical mind, to live and tell the story. He's a non-believer, but in order to get that regular paycheck, he writes what his audience wants to read.
Until he got an anonymous invitation to visit the Dolphin Hotel's room 1408, whose notorious history has a series of bizarre murders taking place within the confines of the room. Picking up the challenge much against the wishes of hotel manager Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson), here's when things start to really go bump in the night. Touted as the room where you won't last an hour in, we follow Mike Enslin as he tries to uncover just what is the mystery behind this evil force is, but like the cynic in him, we start to cast that suspecting eye on Mike himself - is he going insane, letting his dark history catch up with him, or is the room truly hell in luxurious settings? It's basically Jumanji within four walls, as wave after wave of spooky events hit Mike, and tests the limits of his sanity.
And there are some genuinely spooky moments in 1408, so credit goes to the filmmaking team in setting everything up for little climaxes in the narrative. But too much of a good thing tends to make it seem like being stuck in a repetitive loop, and before long, you'll be crying out loud for the entire episode to end, just like how Mike just wants to get out. For a small set, 1408 unleashed total mayhem onto itself, so much so that you suspect it doesn't know how to end, falling prey to the multiple ending syndrome, and at one point I was cringing that it could go along the same direction as that Nicolas Cage stinker Next. Thankfully, it didn't, but it after too much ingredients stuffed into it, the outcome was really quite bland, that its ending, with great promise, just doesn't wow, after the fatigued long drawn route to conclusion.
In actuality, what made this movie engaging is that John Cusack essentially does a one man show here. Fear, despair, desperation, hope, we see it all as his Mike battles with the unknown with great aplomb. He doesn't disappoint, and one of the highlights is his sparring with Samuel L Jackson as the hotel manager with an attitude. But don't hold your breaths for many scenes where they appear together. Despite having shared top billing with Cusack, Jackson got nothing more than a supporting role here, showing shades of his mo-fo attitude, before having the spotlight centered firmly on Cusack again.
Great buildup, effective spooky moments, but overall a rather dull affair if you piece them all together. And one thing's for sure, you'll never listen to The Carpenter's "We've Only Just Begun", in the same light ever again.