I’m not sure if it’s because 1408 isn’t your run of the mill horror-complete with the necessary gore and flesh of, let’s say, your modern day “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”- or if it’s because the ending leaves you with an alternate idea of life after experiencing death.
John Cusack plays the burned-out 40-something occult writer (thank you, Stephen King), Michael Enslin, who is taunted by a postcard he receives to visit the mythical Dolphin Hotel’s room 1408 where 56 people have met their demise since 1912.
His career is in the pooper, and he has nothing to lose. His wife and dead daughter are out of the picture- so he goes.
During the first 30 minutes we see Cusack in a sort of retro light; it’s almost as if Lane Meyer is back and I am slouching on my parent’s yellow and forest green plaid sofa drinking Pepsi-Free watching “Better Off Dead”. I mean, this is fantastic. Cusack is who we all know and love AND it’s horror. Well, not really.
So, Meyer….woops, I mean, Enslin (heh), checks into 1408 with the skepticism and cockiness not unlike that of Bill Murray in “Ghostbusters”. All he needs to complete his artillery of forensic, ghost fighting gadgets is a proton pack.
The “horror” ensues…and it’s all over the place. Chaos.
The clock radio (circa 1978-I’m guessing based on when the room was said to be closed by the awful Gerald Olin played by a non-screaming Sam Jackson) begins to play the Carpenters’, “We’ve only just begun”.
Enslin’s hand gets slammed in the window and the room’s thermostat raises to an unbearable level, pushing Cusack over the edge. We see Technicolor likenesses of the people who have previously died throwing themselves out of the windows and a brownish-red ooze (ectoplasm?) starts to drip from cracks in the wall.
So now I’m thinking, is this “Groundhog Day”, or a 70’s psychological thriller? If so, where the heck is Anthony Perkins?
From this point we are taken on a journey flashing back to the negative points of Enslin’s life, i.e. his loss of faith in humanity…in God.
I have to be honest…nothing ridiculous happens. You have to, sort of, allow the possibility of fright to enter your head during the remainder of the movie. For those of you familiar with Stephen King’s craft, you know it works this way; he sets you up…but it’s up to you to knock it down.
Basically, Enslin’s mocking of the supernatural comes back to bite him in the arse.
We see him as a new man at the end the of the film; stripped of all doubt and we are left to wonder if he had seen Redemption or Purgatory. Or both?