I’ve always enjoyed reading Stephen King, curling up on a winter afternoon flipping page after page of a 1,000-page novel. He’s a great storyteller, if not a literary master.
Unfortunately, his books and short stories have a reputation for making bad movies. There are some exceptions, of course: The Shining, Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me. But for every winner there are even more losers, and 1408 comes in a little behind the pack.
John Cusack plays Mike Enslin, a bitter writer of haunted travel books, who visits places that advertise their ghosts, but never seems to find them. Then he gets a tip about a room in a Manhattan hotel—room 1408—that might give him something to write about.
Upon arrival at the hotel, Mike is greeted by the manager, Gerald (Samuel L. Jackson), who very nicely tries to change his mind about staying in room 1408. Fifty-six people have died in that room, he tells him. But nothing will dissuade him.
It’s right after Mike checks into the room that the story goes from blissfully intense and suspenseful to downright dumb. The room goes nuts and does everything in its power—from slamming Mike’s hand in the window to making it seem like the Arctic, ice and all—to either kill him or make him go insane. But for a guy who’s so jaded about such things, it sure doesn’t take much to make him squeal.
A major weakness in the film is that the room’s motivations and “living” status are never investigated—something I’m sure the story did beautifully. In the end, 1408 feels like a story by Stephen King, the kind whose soul has been ripped out in order to make it into a blockbuster.