“Hotels are a naturally creepy place… Just think, how many people have slept in that bed before you? How many of them were sick? How many… died? “
1408 marks the third appearance of Stephen King’s work on the Boston.com Top 50 Scariest Films of All Time list. And rightfully so. Based on a short story of King’s that appears in the anthology Everything’s Eventual, the film adaptation of 1408 is a chilling and stylish ghost story directed by Mikael Håfström.
After the death of his young daughter (played by Jasmine Jessica Anthony) , writer Mike Enslin (John Cusack) turns what little remains of his energy to reviewing purportedly haunted inns, motels, and hotels. When he receives a mysterious postcard warning him not to enter room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel, Enslin can’t resist. What he finds there, behind the door to room 1408, shakes Enslin to his very core.
Thoughtful, well paced and devilishly delicious to look at, 1408 will garner little overtly negative criticism from me. A longtime fan of Cusack’s work, I delighted in watching him in a non-romantic role, where he spends a majority of his screentime alone. Even his character design – the loud shirts, cheap shoes, everything not quite fitting as it should – point to the fractured human being Mike has become: sloppy, tired, trying too hard to lay back and be casual in the wake of a devastating personal loss.
Visually, 1408 is one of my favorite psychological horror films. Filmed on location in New York, the gorgeous Roosevelt Hotel doubles for the facade of the Dolphin Hotel, where Mike Enslin finds himself held prisoner by room 1408. The incredible lobby of the Dolphin was shot in London at the Reform Club.
While the room itself is an elaborate set, the filmmaker’s have gone to great lengths to create a stunning, early 20th Century style hotel suite, complete with wall treatments, lighting, and crown moulding. To die for.
In fact the room itself, despite some carefully crafted cinematic wear and tear, and having been called by Dolphin Hotel manager, Gerald Olin (played by Samuel L. Jackson) “f*cking evil”, is quite stunning.
The difficulty faced by 1408 as a film is, unsurprisingly, the ending. After a build up of nearly 2 hours, how do you end it? How do you take the audience into a place of satisfaction where they don’t feel a.) cheated b.) confused or c.) abandoned. Easy. Craft an alternate ending for the film’s DVD release and market it as an upsell.
Can anyone say, “Do over!”? Good job. I knew you could.
Having endured both theatrical and alternate endings of the film, I happily encourage you to do the same. Personally, I like the open ended feel of the alternate ending and maybe you will, too.
The downside to these sorts of filmmaking shenanigans? You only get one chance to make a first impression.
Wiki facts: 1408
Is 1408 rotten or fresh?
How did 1408 do at the box office?
Watch or buy 1408 on Amazon
Read the Stephen King short story in Everything’s Eventual