The renowned horror novelist and skeptic Mike Enslin (John Cusak) does not believe in supernatural events.
While working on his new writing project, Ten Nights in Haunted Hotel Rooms, Enslin decides to check himself into the luxurious Dolphin Hotel to discredit the stigma surrounding room 1408.
The hotel manager, Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson) strongly advises Enslin against occupying that room not only because of the many unexplained deaths that occurred there, and because nobody lasts in the room for more that one hour, but also because he doesn’t want to “clean up the mess.”
Enslin stands firm in his determination and, upon entering the room, he is pleased to see that there is nothing abnormal about it. However when the clock resets itself, room 1408 begins to take a life of its own. Things move out of order, and Enslin experiences floods, fire, snow storms, as well as visions of Enslin’s dead daughter, his estranged wife Lily (Mary McCormack), and deceased room guests’ ghosts.
Based on Stephen King’s short story, 1408’s eerie suspense captivates from the start. The script is powerful especially in the persuasive dialogue between Olin and Enslin.
“I don’t know how he knows how to scare people so intensely, or where those impulses come from, but King is definitely channeling some spirits and demons” says Cusack.
While the first half of the movie is chilling, the second half loses some momentum by centering on the blurred line between fantasy and reality.
“The film has this dream logic to it,” says Cusack, “a lot of the things that Mike sees are things that could have been, might have been, or were his worst nightmare.”
1408 is effectively directed by the Oscar nominated Swedish writer/director Mikael Håfström, who in this movie is joined by most of his Derailed crew, including the Oscar nominated Peter Boyle, costume designer Natalie Ward, and production designer Andrew Laws.
The actors are superb and well casted for their roles. Jackson is magnificent as the hotel manager, while Cusack is a likable and a very relatable stubborn skeptic.
Mary McCormack as Lily Enslin delivers an effective portrayal of the estranged wife still emotionally connected to her tormented husband.
“Genre-wise this film is tricky” says McCormack, “It’s not really a horror movie because it’s not a slasher film, but it is horrifying. It’s sort of a ghost tale and a psychological thriller as well.”
How much of Enslin’s experience was due to the power of suggestion or supernatural events is a question that 1408 haunts.