This movie was adapted from the Stephen King short story of the same name. It revolves around an unbelieving haunted hotel writer, who travels to advertised ‘haunted motels’ and basically lies for a living; he doesn’t believe in the paranormal. That is until he goes to the Dolphin Hotel, and to room 1408.
When I saw this short story was being made into a movie, I must say I was surprised. The story wasn’t that great, and the plot was quite thin. However, hearing the film’s rave reviews from friends and family, and being a huge Stephen King fan, I went with my friend to check it out.
The movie stars John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson, but it’s mainly Cusack carrying the movie once he gets into the hotel room. I’m a big fan of both actors and Cusack was brilliant at carrying nearly an entire film on his own in one room, and his acting was superb.
The film started out tense and foreboding, adding a character sub-plot for the Mike Enslin (Cusack) character; which really had to be done; otherwise the film would have been far too short, if it stuck to the theme of the short story. Enslin has lost his daughter from a terminal illness and has since become a strong drinker and separated from his wife.
The story really becomes interesting as Cusack arrives at the Dolphin Hotel and is invited into Samuel L. Jackson’s (the hotel manager) office. What we then view is Jackson trying desperately to try and get Cusack not to stay in the room. He tells him about the sixty or so deaths that have occurred in the room, all of unknown causes or suicide, but all strange.
Obviously, Cusack pays no attention to Jackson’s warnings and enters the room anyway. The first hour of the film, with Cusack in the room is brilliant, with the tension building and building. Making the most of what we think we see which is always scarier than what we do. Enslin quickly starts doubting his own mind (like in the King story) and there are some truly scary moments in the film, which play with the viewer’s psychology instead of showing us blood and gore.
The film is edited fast, so when we do see something, like Cusack, we’re not sure if we did. With the help of sound effects, CGI, scary characters and some really good cinematography, the film really messes with the viewers mind.
This is within the first hour though, and then the film (unlike the story) flips the coin and verges on the ridiculous. It plays with imagery from King’s other film ‘The Shining’, and being based in a hotel as well, is reminiscent of it.
The scenes where the hotel room is flooded with sea water from the painting in the room, and when the room fills up with snow are truly ridiculous and takes us away from the suspension of disbelief, into simply thinking ‘what on earth is going on?’ The screen-writer took a really good plot too far. Also bringing, Enslin’s family into it, and playing on the messed up writer stereotype was too much. The film should have stuck with its origins and just played the haunted room.
There was enough character brought by Cusack, without the added element of his family and his problems, which in the end seemed to take over from the haunted room. Plus, why sixty other victims of the room didn’t think of doing what Cusack does in the end is beyond me, and was too much of an easy way out for the writer and director.
A fantastic first hour, which is truly scary; but then the movie goes too far, and spoils itself by using too many special effects and losing character development. Cusack is brilliant through-out though, and the film is definitely worth seeing. Over all, a good horror.