Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Mary McCormack
Directed by Mikael Hafstrom
Distributed by Genius Products, LLC.
When Stephen King is good, he sits higher on top of his game than just about any other genre personality out there. Yet, his work (with a few exceptions) has never really translated well to film. Despite the truly great efforts of some very talented individuals in Hollywood, including King himself, something just gets lost along the way. His short story 1408 first appeared in audio book form some time ago and then finally in print in the King collection Everything’s Eventual. The question now beckons — could a story only a few pages long make a successful jump to the big screen? The answer — a surprising yes.
1408 tells the story of Mike Enslin (Cusack) a literary paranormal investigator who makes a living writing about and debunking some of the most haunted places in the world. After getting a postcard in the mail telling him not to go into room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel in Manhattan, Mike scoffs at the warning and quickly heads out to the big city to tempt fate. Much to Mike’s chagrin room 1408 has a history that justifies the warning. According to the hotel’s manager (Jackson) this room has been the site of over fifty deaths and nobody that enters it lasts more than an hour. Steely eyed, our hero shrugs these facts off. “We don’t rattle,” he tells himself in his trusted voice recorder, but rattled is exactly what he gets as upon his entering the room, the normally soothing sounds of the Carpenters’ hit “We’ve Only Just Begun” ushers him into a night of death and mayhem.
Despite some liberties taken with the storyline as a means to flesh the tale out to feature length, 1408 delivers some of King’s best haunted house chills since his classic The Shining. Unpredictable, fast paced, and intelligent, this flick will take its viewers on one hell of a ride. The best part? We get two different versions of the film to choose from.
This two-disc collector’s edition seems a little light on extras when all is said and done, but when it comes to the movie itself, you just can’t go wrong. Disc one has the theatrical cut of 1408 (review here) (which is also available in a single-disc edition) along with two Internet webisodes as extras. The first, John Cusack on 1408, clocks in at a scant two and a half minutes, as does the second, Inside Room 1408.
There’s not a whole lot of ground you can cover in four minutes I tell ya! Don’t fret though, disc two is where the meat is.
Things kick off with an extended unrated cut of the movie with an alternate ending. So what are the differences? Well, let’s just say that the film is pretty much the same except for a scene or two in which Cusack gets to spend a little bit more time out of the room and a grimmer, yet sappier ending. Truth be told, despite the extra goodness, the theatrical cut felt more like the way this film should be. Usually I’m all for extra unhappy endings, but this one just didn’t sit well. Who cares though? We get two choices here! Dig on whichever you like.
As far as supplement material on this second disc, the extras ball gets rolling with an informative yet semi-stale commentary by director Mikael Hafstrom and writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. The trio discuss all the technical aspects you would expect and of course all of the film’s different cuts, of which there were several including this one, but there just wasn’t any excitement to be found here. Definitely one of the sleepier commentaries I’ve heard in a long while. Next up we have around eleven minutes of deleted scenes (with optional commentary) which honestly don’t add or take away anything from the release itself. These scenes, if only for pacing issues, were wisely excised. Finally we’re treated to four featurettes clocking in at about twenty-seven minutes combined called The Secrets of 1408. Discussed in them are production design, the characters, the director, and the film’s physical F/X. Pretty basic stuff.
1408 hits about ninety percent of all its intended marks, and this DVD set does the film a bit of justice. So the time has come, dear reader. Dim the lights, crank up the 5.1 and journey into one of the most haunted hotel rooms you ever will see. Are you brave enough to make it to the continental breakfast?
4 out of 5
3 1/2 out of 5
Discuss 1408 in our Dread Central forums!