head
head head head
Home Contact RSS Feed
News   •   Features   •   Reviews   •   Podcasts   •   Contests   •   Contact Us   •   About Us
Movie Review: 1408
Dr. Royce Clemens   |  

1408In February, I saw a film called The Messengers and I firmly believe it’s the worst case scenario for a PG-13 rated horror film. Of that, I wrote at horroryearbook.com: “PG-13 rated horror films are like the jukeboxes at strip clubs. You might get a little ‘LaGrange’ you might get a little ‘Legs,’ you might even get a little ‘Sharp-Dressed Man.’ But at the end of the day it’s all the same damn ZZ Top.” They’re frightened of their own shadow, wanting to be scary but not having the elbow room to do anything to be scared of.

But if a PG-13 horror movie succeeds, it succeeds very well, because it used its handicap to its advantage and tried that whole “creativity” thing we hear bandied about a lot but so very rarely see. Not only that, but if it does well in the worst of conditions, you may find yourself more impressed with it than you would many horror films that have that R rating that smug-as-fuck horror fans will tell you is mandatory.

Think about it like this: Which hunter impresses you more? The one with the camo gear, GPS, and high powered rifle with laser scope? Or the dude hiding in a tree with JUST a cheap bow and arrow?

1408, I am proud to say, is the BEST case scenario for a PG-13 horror film. It’s a well played and well made character study with a damn fine performance by John Cusack and wonderful base material by Stephen King… And it is the CREEPIEST damn thing…

Cusack plays Mike Enslin, a travel author wrapped in layers of cynicism to drown out the angry voices of a shitty past. Not just any kind of travel author, Enslin stays at various supposed “haunted” places all across the world and writes about what he sees (jack and shit) and publishes with titles like Ten Haunted Hotels and Ten Haunted Lighthouses.

Then he gets a postcard in the mail from the Dolphin Hotel in Manhattan. No return address, just a quick message: “Don’t Enter 1408.”

After some legal wrangling trying to get the room, (even the staff doesn’t want anyone entering 1408) Enslin finally gets a sitdown with the manager Olin, played with officious intelligence in a small role by Samuel L. Jackson. He tells Enslin that there have been fifty-six deaths of both a natural and suicidal nature in 1408 and practically begs him not to go in there. “I just don’t want to clean up the mess,” he says.

Enslin checks into 1408 and there are shenanigans… Lots and lots of shenanigans.

1408 has no theme, no deep psychological meaning, no labored political allusions and no childish desire to up any ante. It’s just a crisp, clean story that has no other desire than to entertain and spookify me, the paying customer. Given the current trends in horror movies, this pleases me to practically no end. And it has no gore for the simple reason that, well, it doesn’t really NEED any. What was the last horror movie you saw that could get by with its wits and without corn syrup and red food coloring?

The film’s primary charm is that it plays differently than any other story of a haunting I’ve seen. There’s no backstory to figure out to send the ghosts to a better place so the room will no longer remain haunted. It doesn’t work like that. The room is evil, well, just because, and that creates a no-win situation. What I like about that is that the story boils down to a sheer battle of wills between Enslin and whatever twisted revenant has made Room 1408 its home. Enslin falls on his common sense, his past experiences, and his own cynicism to debunk the power the room has and find a way out, and 1408 shreds his lines of self-defense one by one. Everything in the room, from the bed to the TV to the paintings on the wall to the window to the mini-fridge to even the goddamn roll of toilet paper in the bathroom serve to chip away at this poor man’s psyche.

And whatever IS in that room fights dirty. Imagine being ruled over on a Heaven-and-Hell scale by some kid who burns ants with a magnifying glass and knows all your secrets and you’ll get the idea. The Poltergeist uses Enslin’s own logic against him in a few cases and even takes him a tenth of the movie in the wrong direction before plopping his ass right back down where he started from. The room then brings up his past (I won’t give anything away) to systematically destroy him from the inside out. This culminates in a scene late in the movie that’s so macabre and so abrupt and so heartless that, given what we know about Mike Enslin, it was really tough to watch.

And that’s what’s so damn frightening about this movie. We LIKE Enslin and we identify with him the more we learn about him. And we in turn are scared because this poor man is powerless to help himself. This is strong writing from Matt Greenberg and the duo of Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who were responsible for Ed Wood, The People vs. Larry Flynt, and… Problem Child? (Dude, what the fuck?)

1408 is essentially a one-character piece and without an actor who is up to the challenge this movie will not fly at all. John Cusack, who until recent years was the most reliable guy in Hollywood until that America’s Sweethearts/Must Love Dogs bullshit, scores like you’ve never seen. It’d be all too easy to eat the scenery without swallowing with a part like this, but Cusack manages the feat of slowly but surely devolving from an embittered smartass to quivering mass of dementia. This is the most centered and mature that I’ve ever seen him.

I’ve heard plenty about the evils of PG-13 horror movies and the virtues of their R-rated counterparts. I know this because most if it came from my own lips. It’s at this point that I must recant and eat some crow. After months of watching annoying co-eds being slaughtered in molasses-slow ways by power tools, I have just seen a movie about a man whose heart and soul have been intruded upon and are slowly being devoured by madness.

Y’know… Something that REALLY fuckin’ hurts.

  • http://www.completegeek.net Trey

    I thought it was an excellent film and I wholeheartedly agree with your review. It made me anxious and frightened in a way I haven’t been in years.

  • http://www.ArtsongMusicStudio.com Lyric Mezzo

    Great review! Thanks for breaking it down so well…

  • Nick

    “1408 has no theme, no deep psychological meaning”

    The film very clearly seems to be about the stages of grief that, if denied, can lead to suicidal depression—and I say “seems” because a film can be about anything the audience wants it to be about. A beautiful part of storytelling. You, for example, felt it expressed nothing and you are therefore right because your experience wholly belongs to you.

    I thought, however, its theme was pretty heavy handed, but I appreciated the clarity with which the experience of that kind of grief was expressed figuratively. Although grief is different for everyone, the film did an excellent job of representing an abstract, inner struggle so viscerally.

    To be honest, until I went through the pain of losing a loved one, I didn’t understand the film. Now, I very much do. And I think it did a great job talking about it.

    Otherwise, I really enjoyed your review.

Tags:
Previous Article
Next Article
«
»
Around the Web
Geeks of Doom on Instagram Follow Geeks of Doom on Tumblr
Geeks of Doom on YouTube Geeks of Doom on Pinterest
Geeks of Doom Email Digest Geeks of Doom RSS Feed
Google
Amazon.com
Check out all of our current contests listings
Check out all of our current contests listings
space
space
The Drill Down Podcast TARDISblend Podcast Skull-Face Island Movie Podcast
BlendoveR
Get Geeks of Doom Gear on CafePress
BlendoveR   ·   Cinema Blend   ·   Collider   ·   Film School Rejects   ·   First Showing   ·   io9   ·   Latino Review   ·   Screen Rant   ·   Slashfilm   ·   The Mary Sue
2520 Clothing Company
Animated  ·  Apps  ·  Art  ·  Best-Sellers  ·  Bits of Doom  ·  Blog  ·  Blu-ray  ·  Book of Geek  ·  Books  ·  Cartoons  ·  Celebrity  ·  Charity  ·  Collectibles  ·  Comics  ·  Computers  ·  Contests  ·  Conventions  ·  Deals  ·  DIY  ·  Documentary  ·  Doom Deliveries  ·  DVDs  ·  Electronics  ·  Environment  ·  Fanatic  ·  Features  ·  Gadgets  ·  Games  ·  Gear  ·  Geek Finds  ·  Geek Girls  ·  Gift Guide  ·  Holidays  ·  Humor  ·  Interviews  ·  Movies  ·  Music  ·  News  ·  News Bytes  ·  Obit  ·  Photos  ·  Podcasts  ·  Politics  ·  Poll  ·  Press Releases  ·  Recaps  ·  Reviews  ·  Rumors  ·  Science  ·  Software  ·  Sports  ·  Technology  ·  Television  ·  Theater  ·  Theme Parks  ·  Trailers  ·  Travel  ·  Video Games  ·  Videos  ·  Web Games  ·  Week of Geek  ·  Zombie Round-Up
space
January 2014  ·   December 2013  ·   November 2013  ·   October 2013  ·   September 2013  ·   August 2013  ·   July 2013  ·   June 2013  ·   May 2013  ·   April 2013  ·   March 2013  ·   February 2013  ·   January 2013  ·   December 2012  ·   November 2012  ·   October 2012  ·   September 2012  ·   August 2012  ·   July 2012  ·   June 2012  ·   May 2012  ·   April 2012  ·   March 2012  ·   February 2012  ·   January 2012  ·   December 2011  ·   November 2011  ·   October 2011  ·   September 2011  ·   August 2011  ·   July 2011  ·   June 2011  ·   May 2011  ·   April 2011  ·   March 2011  ·   February 2011  ·   January 2011  ·   December 2010  ·   November 2010  ·   Octber 2010  ·   September 2010  ·   August 2010  ·   July 2010  ·   June 2010  ·   May 2010  ·   April 2010  ·   March 2010  ·   February 2010  ·   January 2010  ·   December 2009  ·   November 2009  ·   Octber 2009  ·   September 2009  ·   August 2009  ·   July 2009  ·   June 2009  ·   May 2009  ·   April 2009  ·   March 2009  ·   February 2009  ·   January 2009  ·   December 2008  ·   November 2008  ·   Octber 2008  ·   September 2008  ·   August 2008  ·   July 2008  ·   June 2008  ·   May 2008  ·   April 2008  ·   March 2008  ·   February 2008  ·   January 2008  ·   December 2007  ·   November 2007  ·   Octber 2007  ·   September 2007  ·   August 2007  ·   July 2007  ·   June 2007  ·   May 2007  ·   April 2007  ·   March 2007  ·   February 2007  ·   January 2007  ·   December 2006  ·   November 2006  ·   Octber 2006  ·   September 2006  ·   August 2006  ·   July 2006  ·   June 2006  ·   May 2006  ·   April 2006  ·   March 2006
space
Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under
a Creative Commons License.
space
Geeks of Doom is proudly powered by WordPress.

Students of the Unusual™ comic cover used with permission of 3BoysProductions
The Mercuri Bros.™ comic cover used with permission of Prodigal Son Press

Geeks of Doom is designed and maintained by our geeky webmaster
All original content copyright ©2005-2014 Geeks of Doom
All external content copyright of its respective owner, except where noted

Privacy Policy | Contact
space
space