Haunted hotel rooms are commonplace. Google your hometown and the topic and you’re bound to come up with at least one nearby. Usually the back-story involves a visitor or hotel employee who met their unfortunate end on the premises. But that’s nothing compared to the Dolphin’s room 1408. 1408 is the mother of all haunted hotel rooms, having claimed more than 50 “victims,” and looking for more when skeptical and emotionally burnt-out writer Michael Enslin (John Cusack) checks in. Only Stephen King could concoct such a notion, though it is Swedish director Mikael Håfström who brought the story to the big screen.
The two-disc collection’s edition DVD features two very entertaining adaptations of King’s short story. Cusack is in rare form, showing a wide range of emotions and largely carries the film on his own (and he would have to, considering he is alone for a majority of it). The room itself, however, becomes a vivid character thanks to the quality work of set producers. The limited use of CGI is refreshing, and Håfström’s vision stays true to the feel of King’s work: one of constant mental unease.
The DVD case includes a debatable quote rating the film as one of the best King adaptations since The Shining. (King himself was unhappy with Kubrick’s film, which itself, is not a very faithful adaptation of the book. I would personally rank The Shawshank Redemption as the best King adaptation.) However, King’s short stories haven proven more successful as films than his novels and 1408 continues this pattern. The changes to the original story are negligible, and a strong performance by Cusack keeps things interesting.
The extended “Director’s Cut” features additional scenes and an alternate, more somber ending that strays further from King’s work. This second ending opts for a jumpier finish to the story, but given the film’s predominate focus on psychological tension over shock, does not fit as well as the ending featured in the original cut. Likewise, the added scenes, which largely focus on Enslin’s relationship with his father (Len Cariou), do not add much to the story and are barely noticeable.
Disc one contains the theatrical release of the film along with an interview with Cusack, a look at the film’s set, and a theatrical trailer. The Cusack piece is little more than an extended trailer, but the second is a short but interesting look at the production work that went into making the room change throughout the film. For those really interested, the four-part feature “The Secrets of 1408″ on the second disc explores the various aspects of production in more detail.
The majority of the bonus features are on the second disc. In addition to the extended cut of the film, the second disc features commentary by Håfström and writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. Scenes that never made it into either cut of the films are also available with the option of similar commentary. I recommend watching them with the commentary on as the significance of the scenes (and the reasons they were cut) is otherwise lost.
So, unless you are a devote fan or take a deep interest in the inner workings of film production, the extras features on the second disc are largely forgettable. However, 1408 itself is a strong enough film to make this package — which also includes a set of collectible Dolphin Hotel postcards — worth purchasing.