DARKMATTERS - The Mind of Matt

You met me at a very strange time in my life...

Sunday, September 02, 2007

1408 - review



1408 (15)

Dir. Mikael Håfström

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

Hotels are naturally creepy places... Just think, how many people have slept in that bed before you? How many of them were sick? How many... died?
Here we are again then; in another haunted hotel dreamt up by Stephen King and it’s in room 1408 that jaded ghost disproving writer Mike Enslin (John Cusack) is in for a truly hellish night… You however have choice as to whether or not you join him in this slick but slightly disappointing wannabe mind-bending horror effort.
For those seeking a full on, freak out terror fest, you might well find 1408 is more of a Travel Lodge experience to The Shining’s five star Ritz – adequate but nothing you’re going to remember very fondly. After an impressive build up thanks in no small part to Samuel L. Jackson as Gerald Olin who has the dubious pleasure of being manager of The Dolphin Hotel, the action homes in on the room of the title. And the freakiness kicks off in promising style (at least judging by the traumatised look on my mate Matt Landsman’s face - his review is below for your reading pleasure) with one of the most unnerving jump scenes to hit the screen this year clue: look out - she’s behind you…
But it’s mostly down hill from then on as the frights get exponentially fewer and less effective as the film focuses on Enslin’s emotional torment depicted through some scattershot and over the top special effect set pieces. Cue various run ins with the spectres of previous victims of room 1408 (56 people died there seeing as you asked) and then an ill advised sentimental reunion with his dead daughter that heightens the schmaltz to an uncomfortable level. It seems that the short story this is based on didn’t stretch to the hour and a half running time without some obvious padding and treading water.
Mikael ‘Derailed’ Håfström is however a competent director and had a decent budget to play with, which only makes it all the more of a shame that the end product leaves you feeling a bit ‘meh’ rather than ‘ooh I’m freaked out’…
You don’t need to be a maths genius to notice that the digits in 1408 add up to 13.This could either be construed as a spooky sign of where to find some horrible fun to witness or perhaps more aptly in this case just ‘unlucky for some’…

Out of 5 you have to go with an averagely shocking 2.5 (redrum redrum redrum)...

Darkmatters ratings:
Action ööö – freaky bedroom action ahoy!
Laughs öö – couple of wry laughs
Horror öööö – one great shock doesn't make a great film
Babes ö – the dead aren't sexy

Overall öö1/2 (scary -ish but not enough)


second opinion:

1408 (15)
Dir. Mikael Hafstrom
Reviewed by Matt Landsman

Adapted from a Stephen King short story and directed Swedish Mikael Hafstrom (probably best known for Oscar-nominated "Evil" (2003) and "Derailed"
(2005)) this film was said to be the return to a more traditional suspense filled horror after the recent descent into the so-called "torture porn" such as "Hostel: Part II" and like minded films that are cutting a bloody path through the horror genre.

Mike Enslin (John Cusack) is a writer specialising in books about haunted places and paranormal phenomenon who has a sceptical view of the afterlife following the untimely death of his daughter Katie. The death leads to him abruptly abandoning his wife (Mary McCormack) and moving from New York to Los Angeles where he tries to put his life back together and finish writing "Ten Haunted Hotel Rooms". It isn't until he receives a postcard addressed from the Dolphin Hotel in Manhattan with the simple message "Don't Enter 1408" that Mike decides to return to New York and see what Room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel has to offer.

After ringing the hotel, Mike is informed by Dolphin manager Mr. Olin (Samuel L. Jackson) that the room is "not available". Not next week. Not next month. Not ever. Mike is convinced this room is the basis of the final chapter of his book and only the threat of a lawsuit manages to persuade the hotel to agree to his stay. On arrival, Mr Olin informs Mike that 56 deaths have occurred in the hotel's 95 year history - all in room 1408, and all those that check in are soon to check out via rope, razor blade, window, or the occasional heart attack and stroke, always within an hour. The official conclusion according to the hotel manager is "It's an evil f---ing room."

What follows is a film that fails to deliver in quite a few areas. The premise of the film is intriguing and the acting is strong and convincing with Cusack carrying the film in what is virtually a one man show. The psychological horror that writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski were aiming for was uninspiring and obvious, from the unplugged radio that constantly played "We've Only Just Begun" by The Carpenters, to Enslin's emotions towards his daughter which are played on too frequently throughout the film and only further waters down the effect of fear that the writers struggled to produce by softening up the situation instead of invoking the terror and distress that this film needed more of. But then again, what more could you have expected from the duo that wrote "Agent Cody (Malcolm in the
Middle) Banks"?

American writers often fail when it comes to the Japanese-esque psychological horror (see: US and Japanese versions of The Ring Two) and the temptation that Alexander and Karaszewski fell into was teasing the prospect of American hack-and-slash in a probable attempt to please US viewers, but never delivering the goods in order to keep this suspense-based. Unfortunately, having a foot in both camps weakened the effect of either method of building tension and furthering the plot as the film seemed to lose it's focus. At times it is difficult to know if Enslin is supposed to be battling against some unseen evil or his own emotional instability caused by the death of his daughter and breakdown of his marriage.

1408 is worth watching if you like a good horror film but don't expect to be blown away by this one. For an altogether better mix of Stephen King and hotel-based horror you're better off sticking with The Shining, which this film doesn't even get close to.

Darkmatters: H O M E

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