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Horror Review: 1408

Written by Josh Brewer, July 14th, 2017, at 4:30 p.m. Tweet to: @theJWBrewer


Title: 1408

Director: Mikael Hafstrom
Writer: Matt Greenberg, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski
Based on a Short Story by Stephen King
Release Date: June 22nd, 2007
Cast: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Mary McCormack, Tony Shalhoub

Cliff’s Notes

After losing his daughter, a writer who specializes in haunted hotels finds himself at the mercy of room 1408. Things get rough.

Lecture

After taking a quick break from my King reviews to check out Spider-Man, I’m back this week with another solid King offering. King has always managed to make the most out of his haunted house/hotel set ups- The Shining stands out and we’ll be tackling the solid Rose Red later – though by the time 2007 rolled around, he’d set his sights a touch higher. Already proven as a dramatic story teller, as if you couldn’t tell by Misery, 1408 attempts to meld the horror goodies and a dramatic subplot. And, it mostly works.

1408 works best when handling the horror goodies. The set up doesn’t change the game, but the execution starts strong and keeps going to often absurd levels. We get all of the solid haunted house tropes in the first half, while the second goes all kinds of crazy with a few crazy setups that really pay off. The center piece of this visual feast is a fantastic John Cusack, who gives one hell of a performance. He’s aided by a solid supporting cast and more than one fun twists. Nice job!

So, what holds 1408 back? Well, first and foremost, not all of the twists work particularly well. Some are way too telegraphed and others fall flat. Why you may ask? Because the 1408 also engages in a major dramatic subplot that doesn’t work nearly as well. Cusack is up to the challenge, as are his fellow actors, but the script doesn’t support the work and leaves it overly pruned. What’s more, the often solid direction doesn’t hold up when the tone shifts. While King’s story managed to do this well, 1408 the film can’t pull it off.

Acting

Let’s be clear, Cusack is the beating heart of this film and it’s amazing what he does in a genre flick. He manages to not only build sympathy for his damaged character, but provide a fun, skeptic lens to view the film through. And his work in the more quiet moments, unlike the direction, never waivers. The rest of the cast don’t manage to earn a ton of screen time, but they make up for it with pure awesomeness. Jackson always rocks, and this puppy uses him well. The same can be said for McCormack and Shalhoub- the latter of which is one of my favorites- both of who bring the heat. This cast rocks.

Directing

Hafstrom does the horror gig well. He builds tension and allows for a number of wild scenes to seem organic and focused within the world of the film. While he doesn’t manage the same success when it comes to the drama of the situation, the horror stands out. I’d also note that things seems a little choppy early on, though that reeks of studio interference – this puppy sports two additional endings.

Script

Okay, not the best area of the flick. The first act seems a touch rushes, while the latter acts struggle with tone and focus a touch. That being said, the dialogue works well and the events of the story organically flow from one to another. Alas, this puppy needed either to be expanded or tightened up, because the subplots don’t hold up.

Effects

1408 looks good! Sure, the blood is kept to a minimum, but the off the wall style of storytelling is backed perfectly by a combination of solid CGI and quality VFX.

Highlights

The extremes that 1408 works into its single room setting highlight the flick. I smiled the whole damn time.

Lowlights

Just a little thing, the beginning of the flick seemed to be paced a little strangely, meaning it took a bit to get into it. Oh, and this puppy should have just played the horror or worked harder at the drama.

Final Thoughts  

Occasionally scary and often unsettling, 1408 remains one of the best King adaptations. While a few elements could have been expanded upon, 1408 is a great way to kill a few hours.

Grade: B

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