Run-time: 1 hour, 44 minutes
Directed by: Mikael Håfström
Starring: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Mary McCormack, Jasmine Jessica Anthony, Tony Shalhoub
I can't quite remember what drew me to the theater for 1408 back in 2007, but I do remember with whom I saw the film originally. My friends and I sat near the front of the theater - I can't remember if it was crowded or not - and were ready to find something rather laughable. The film, however, proved to be an effective thriller that also served as the first movie ever to make one of my friends scream. And let me tell you, what a scream it was! But I digress...
There are two things working well within this particular film, and they both revolve around the screenplay. Let's start with the actual story: we're getting a man named Mike Enslin (Cusack) who makes his living by debunking allegedly haunted locales. He's taken up this profession after the loss of his daughter, and although he claims not to believe in a God or an afterlife, he subconsciously hopes to have some sort of otherworldly encounter in order to restore his faith. Still, his travels have never produced anything of the sort. Then one day, he receives a mysterious postcard from a Dolphin Hotel in New York City that reads only "Don't enter 1408." Intrigued, Enslin decides to stay the night in the room, and after a lengthy discussion with the hotel's manager (Jackson), he's able to do so. That's when the fun begins. Olin had said that the room itself was evil, and it's as though it can seep into Enslin's subconscious in order to get to him. We see the gradual breakdown of a man seemingly unable to be rattled, and it's quite the ride.
The second facet of the film that works exceptionally well is the performance of Cusack himself. Because he's on-screen for nearly every scene, a lot of the film's success was going to rely on his ability to remain believable as his character slowly loses his mind. It takes two complementary pieces - Cusack's performance and the writing - to create the character of Mike Enslin. It almost seems as though Enslin was written with Cusack in mind because I can't think of another actor better suited to take on this particular individual. He's a well-read individual with a calm and cool demeanor, but Cusack is able to take us into the insanity that follows as the room continues its barrage of torture. It's an incredibly powerful performance, showing the wide range of emotions that Cusack is able to embody, so kudos should be given where kudos are due.
Ultimately, I found 1408 to be a rather splendid film, and most critics tended to feel the same way. The critical consensus on the online review aggregate Rottentomatoes.com reads, "Relying on psychological tension rather than overt violence and gore, 1408 is a genuinely creepy thriller." Sure, you're not going to jump out of your seat a dozen times during this one, but I can guarantee you'll be enthralled with its premise and its lead performer. Get wrapped up in the suspense; that's way better than the cheap thrills.
Best Horror/Thriller: #34
2007: Nominee - Best Horror/Thriller