Straight to room 101

Released in 2007, certified UK-15. Reviewed on 30 Sep 2007 by Craig Eastman
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This is what happens when actors who will work for food gather around a Stephen King story; moths to the bug zapper. If that's not enough of a warning for you then by all means read on, but the journey which awaits you is every bit as harsh as the fate that befalls the occupants of room 1408. Dun dun duuuuuuuuuuun...

Every now and again Hollywood decides it's a really great idea to throw a load of special effects at a bad horror story. See The Haunting, The House On Haunted Hill, Ghost Ship, Thirteen Ghosts... I could go on. Apparently it's well known that the key to a really, really terrifying cinematic experience is not the build up of psychological tension, nor is it the unsettling use of subtle sound design or understated, atmospheric visuals. No, no, no you fool. The secret to making a really, really terrifying cinematic experience is to surround some floundering ham with scattershot CG at every available opportunity, because pixels are the source of all known manifestations of abject terror. Look your honour, I shall prove it to you now with exhibit Z: 1408.

Now to start with, we know 1408 simply must come from good source material because it has attracted the attentions of both John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson, and if that's not a seal of approval then I've clearly lost my handle on the modern cinematic idiom. I mean, those guys rock. Gerald Olin (Jackson) is the manager of New York's affluent but apparently relatively unknown Dolphin Hotel, and upon his doorstep appears John Cusack. Cusack?s character, Mike Enslin, is a non-believing, low rent author whose stock comprises an assortment of ?top ten most haunted? fare, and whose current endeavours see him touring America?s supposedly spook-infested hotels. Following an anonymous postcard tip-off (it?s how the pros like to roll), Enslin finds himself attempting to check in to the Dolphin?s notorious room 1408, much to manager Olin?s displeasure.

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Apparently 1408 is steeped in horrific horrification of the most horrificated variety, and nobody has ever lasted more than one hour within it?s walls. As Olin puts it, ?it?s an evil f**kin? room?. Suffice to say Enslin finally gets his way, and so as he settles in for the night the shenanigans begin, although I should clarify at this point by ?shenanigans? I mean ?3D Studio Max Tutorials?. The walls begin to (in some cases literally) close in, and tricksy visions plague an increasingly perturbed Enslin as a metaphorical mirror is held up to his beliefs and the way in which he has dealt with the loss of his young daughter. At least, that?s the theory. The actuality of it is that for seven quid you get John Cusack in a a Hawaiian shirt yelling ?what do you want from me!?? at a mini bar. Go figure.

There are a lot of things wrong with 1408, from Mikael H?fstr?m?s deadbeat direction to an inane script, but chief among the guilty parties is the notion that if Stephen King so much as handed his weekly shopping list to his literary agent it must be optioned by Hollywood. Stop it. Stop it now. I want more for my hard earned money and two hours of life clock, and by this point I really don?t think it?s a lot to ask that a little more care and attention be spent on bringing something vaguely worthwhile to the screen. Can there never again be such a thing as a thought-provoking, atmospheric horror movie? Has the lowest common denominator really dropped off the bottom of the scale? Actually, don?t answer either of those.

If you?re the kind of person who condones this brand of nonsense then lots of luck. Me? I?m all stocked up on bollocks at the moment, thank you very much, and the last thing I need is another shipment of bottom feeding drivel like this. There are such things as good Stephen King movie adaptations. There may never be again, but it has been done. Can we pleeeease start making an attempt at spending less cash on effects and more on a new filter for the script hoover? Because right now it?s sucking up all kinds of crap and spitting it right back out in my face.

Mikael H?fstr?m
Cast list:
John Cusack (Mike Enslin)
Samuel L. Jackson (Gerald Olin))
Mary McCormack (Lily Enslin)