“As I was, you are. As I am, you will be.” – Mike’s father, 1408
Directed by Mikael Håfström, 1408 is an American psychological horror/thriller film. It was released on 22 June 2007. Based on a 1999 short story of the same name by Stephen King, with a runtime of 1 hour and 44 minutes. This film garnered a largely positive response and has been quite a success at the box office. It is also the highest-grossing horror film adaptation of a Stephen King ‘short story.’ However, it surpasses the source material on several fronts. For one thing, it takes full advantage of its ‘chamber horror’ setpiece – a movie with a limited number of people engaging amongst each other in a limited space. Much of the weight is carried by the protagonist’s character.
Critics have applauded the film’s restraint for being ‘old-fashioned’ in a good way. It has no real gory content, yet it managed to be one of the most effective psychological horror movies of all time. It came as a chilling work with a different taste amidst all the violent, gruesome, and redundant horror films at that time, like the Saw sequels, The Hills Have Eyes, etc, most of which were rehashed or remade stuff.
The cast includes John Cusack as Michael “Mike” Enslin, Samuel L. Jackson as Gerald Olin, Mary McCormack as Lily Enslin, Tony Shalhoub as Sam Farrell, Len Cariou as Mike’s father, Jasmine Jessica Anthony as Katie Enslin, Isiah Whitlock Jr. as Hotel Engineer, Benny Urquidez as Claw Hammer Maniac, and Kim Thomson as Hotel Desk Clerk.
1408 was a big success because of its strong central performance, frightening storyline, intense psychological tension, and screenplay depth. It is also quite witty, with its share of wrily funny moments. The horror factor mounts gradually as the movie begins, making the fear more palpable. 1408 is mostly a one-man show about how Mike reacts to the bizarre events happening inside a hotel room. It is impressive to watch John Cusack, how he brings too close to life a seemingly absurd situation. That of a sane and rational person dealing with the psycho-spectral occurrences inside a fairly ordinary hotel room. He struggles as he resolves to maintain his composure and fight back.
Analysis of (Room) 1408
The plot is about Mike Enslin, a cynical writer who earns money by writing books. In those, he debunks ghost stories by staying in haunted inns and hotels. He doesn’t believe in those stories as he never encountered a true horror situation in any of the supposedly haunted rooms. One day he receives a suspicious postcard that mentioned Room no. 1408 in Dolphin Hotel in New York. It had a warning for him to “not” enter that room. He decides to use this opportunity as good content for his upcoming book and arrives at The Dolphin, requesting to stay in Room 1408.
This is when he commits the biggest mistake of his life.
Despite the hotel manager, Gerald Olin’s several warnings about the horrific incidents in that room, Mike insists to stay there. However, soon he starts experiencing the darkest demons inside the hotel room, but his attempts to leave go in vain. Initially, the room looks harmless and he starts recording his experience on a mini-cassette recorder. But within a few minutes of his stay, he witnesses strange things happening inside.
An ominous song starts playing on its own, “We’ve Only Just Begun.’ A countdown of 60 minutes appears on a clock radio, and apparitions of the previous dead people in this room start appearing. Also, the room temperature drops, the room starts to shake and gets flooded. Mike also experiences palpable flashbacks – of his deceased daughter Katie, of an unpleasant interaction with his fragile but demanding father. He soon realizes that every time Room 1408 creates an illusion of his escape and he is still trapped inside.
For some reason, the room “feeds” the vulnerable sides of the guest’s psyche. It makes them hurt or kill themselves just to escape the weight of sensory overload and painful memories. It makes time so elastic that they are left with no choice other than to die. Refusing to ‘give in,’ Mike manages to set the hotel room on fire, certain of his impending death. He lights up his only cigarette, lies down, and laughs at his “victory.”
There are three endings to this movie, but none of them matches with the original plot written by King. In two of the alternate endings, Mike survives, he reconciles with his separated wife Lily. They are inside an apartment when Mike looks through his belongings which he carried inside Room 1408. His wife is unwilling to believe the entire incident, but suddenly they hear Katie’s voice from the damaged mini-cassette recorder.
In another “darker” ending, Mike dies while successfully destroying the room. The last scene shows the burnt inside of Room 1408 where the spirit of Mike looks outside of the window and smokes. As he hears Katie calling him, he walks towards the door and disappears. The door closes and the scene slowly fades away.
A collection of real-life stories initially inspired the story of 1408. One is regarding world famous parapsychologist Christopher Chacon who investigated some of the most reputed “haunted” hotel rooms all over the world. In this film, the character of Mike is extremely cynical on the surface, but faces severe cyclical emotions of fear, anger, denial, sorrow, and finally acknowledgment of his situation inside the room. He has multiple suppressed traumas and guilt, especially regarding his daughter’s death which constantly haunts him inside the room.
1408 has proved to be a refreshing movie of the 2000s decide which conjures fundamental fears without reliance on gore. A continuous feeling of inescapability keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. It is a kind of movie which doesn’t involve many different characters or settings. However, it doesn’t fail to give the viewers a haunting experience making it worth the grueling watch.