When one sees the trailer to 1408, its not exactly bone chilling. I mean, it looks entertaining and it makes you want to see the film, but it doesn’t look like its going to scare anyone. So, you chalk it off to it being more of a suspense flick than a horror. So we’ll go ahead and call 1408 a thriller….to bad it doesn’t thrill. What you get with 1408 is a well made film with likeable actors and dialogue but if it sets out to scare, or excuse me…thrill. It falls short.
1408 stars John Cusack (don’t we always give him the benefit of the doubt) as Michael Enslin. A bored author of the supernatural who has seen it all, except anything supernatural, he travels the country exploring and spending the night in scary lighthouses and bed and breakfast joints where horrible events have taken place. He drives away uninspired with another disappointing chapter of his next book written. He goes through the motions living his surfer, California lifestyle, when he receives a post card from the Dolphin hotel in N.Y. with one sentence written on back……”Don’t enter room 1408″. Enslin decides he is going to bite and has his publisher book him a night in the infamous room. After arriving at the Dolphin, he meets the hotel manager, Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson). Olin does everything he can to keep Enslin from staying in the room from horror stories and death statistics to bribes, but in the end he can’t shake the writer from staying in the room where so many horrible events occurred. Eventually our skeptical writer gets his wish and the keys and checks in to the room that won’t let you check out. Not long after he gets there he realizes that this is the real deal where he experiences everything from poltergeist and moving paintings (ala Harry Potter) to freak accidents and the appearance of his young daughter which he lost years ago.
Cusack excels in what is basically a one man show surrounded by special effects. He finds a way to make the audience connect with his arrogant character by hitting the mark on the right emotions at the right times. This is the kind of acting that has made him a sentimental favorite with directors and fans alike. Samuel L. Jackson does a fine job with the little screen time he has and plays off of Cusack’s character very well, the two seem to be having a good time and add a little bit of levity to an otherwise depressing film.
I guess the problem I have with 1408 is that it doesn’t accomplish what it sets out to do and that is to thrill or scare. The effects aren’t anything we haven’t seen before and the cards the movie decides to play at various times makes it hard to really fear anything that is going to happen. Certain elements of the plot are predictable and what the film makers consider scary are hardly enough to make the audience in a shrek 3 screening flinch. Come to think of it……Shrek 3 was more frightening than 1408!
Overall 1408 isn’t a dreadful film and Cusack fans will be satisfied as he puts out another good performance, however this film markets itself as a thriller/horror and whenever you slap on that PG-13 rating to earn a few bucks, you put a limit on how much of your message you can get across to your audience. I guess you could call 1408 a “Thriller for people that are afraid to be well……afraid”