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Reviewed by: JimmyO

Directed by: Mikael Hafstrom

John Cusack
Samuel L. Jackson
Mary McCormack

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What's it about
An author who writes travel guides about haunted houses gets an invite he can’t refuse. At the Dolphin Hotel, he is asked not to stay in room 1408 because nobody has lasted more than an hour. And that is an offer the jaded writer can’t refuse, although he’ll wish he did.
Is it good movie?
John Cusack is a fine actor. He has a grasp on drama and comedy, he also seems to handle terror well. With his performance in the classically styled 1408 he offers up a rich character with whom the audience can root for. The hero in question is an author of tourist trap guides exploring supposedly haunted areas across America. He will take an invite and see if any paranormal situations occur. The problem is, he is looking for something specific that even he is not aware of. His own personal life had suffered at the loss of his young daughter. It destroyed his relationship with his wife played by Mary McCormack. So he searches in vain, trying to find some link to the other side and loses his faith in everything in the process. So when he receives a unanimous postcard telling him not to stay in room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel in New York, he can’t resist.

Director Mikael Hafstrom has crafted a very clever ghost story along with writers Matt Greenberg, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. It is a deliberately paced and slightly skewed take on the ghostly goings on based on the short story by Stephen King. In fact, it is so deliberate, that one scene between John Cusack and the manager of the hotel, Samuel L. Jackson last several minutes as Mr. Jackson attempts to sway the author out of staying in the cursed room. It is a very dialogue heavy scene which describes several deaths that took place in the room, yet it feels like a chess game between the two men which will lead to the climax of the much talked about, Room 1408. We all know that he will stay in the room because if he didn’t, there would be no movie. But appropriately enough, he arrives in the room at about half way through the movie, leaving him one hour to struggle for his sanity and life. And it all starts with a song by The Carpenters

Almost everything worked in this surprisingly old-fashioned ghost story with mostly practical visual effects. Thankfully avoiding CGI, the set design created a room which can suffer all kinds of weather and some ultimately destructive events. In fact, the room works as much as a character as it‘s human actors. John and the room deliver the ghostly goods. This is very much a group effort to make this film work, with Mr. Hafstrom and Mr. Cusack really leading the way. It also avoids a few clichés, only by making them obvious, while pullung out the carpet from under you and laughing because you fell for it. I won’t go into any spoilers, but I was angry at what I though to be the end, and then the filmmakers turn the key just a couple more times keeping me surprised and most importantly, entertained.

Now with this 2-Disc DVD, we are offered the Theatrical Version and the Director’s Cut. The Director’s Cut offers up a different ending and a few extra scenes regarding the protagonists relationship with his father, his daughter, and a few other key elements. Yet I can’t say I like either one better. They both worked, probably because both endings have some fairly dark tones, the Director’s Cut more so than the original. But they both work because it seems that the director remained involved in his vision. And even though this is a PG-13 horror flick, which I usually despise, I felt it was much more chilling than many of it’s R rated counterparts. Why? Because this is an emotional journey that many will find a connection too. And Cusack is so likeable, no matter how jaded he is, I cared about him and wanted to see him get through the haunted night in room 1408.
Video / Audio
Video: The Widescreen presentation is very clear on both discs. This is a great transfer and helps keep the directors vision clear.

Audio: Also very good is the Dolby 5.1. For a movie that relies so heavily on sound as most ghost stories do, the clean and clear sound make it extra creepy.
The Extras
When you are at your local video store and see this title, try and avoid the single disc. Because with this 2-disc edition, you get the Theatrical and the Director’s Cut. Only the Director’s Cut includes Commentary from Director Mikael Hafstrom and writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. It is a very detailed look at the making of 1408 with a few interesting facts. Although I did feel that it seemed a bit dragged out, and I’m not sure why, I did appreciate what the writers had to add as did I find the directors ideas fascinating. One of the most ironic stories… the only F-Bomb dropped in the film came from the hotel manager, and it was written in the script long before Samuel L. Jackson got involved. There were no muther f*ckin’ ghosts in this muther f*ckin’ hotel (not a direct quote). That still cracks me up.

Now for the rest, Disc 1 offers up two webisodes including John Cusack on 1408 (2:27) and Inside Room 1408 with an added Theatrical Trailer. These were fun but short and a bit on the whatever side.

Disc 2 offered up a few more goodies including the commentary, and also a series of featurettes entitled The Secrets of 1408 which included sections called “The Characters” (7:52), “The Director” (5:05), “The Physical Effects” (4:13) and finally “The Production Design” (5:18). All were interesting and slightly better than the webisodes on Disc 1.

Next up comes a few Deleted Scenes including “Contacting Lily wrought with guilt”, “I warned you about 1408”, “Tilting room & Lily pleads at door” and finally “Arriving at the Dolphin (Director’s Cameo)”. The scenes here are pretty good for deleted scenes, in fact, I think I would have liked to add some of the first scene which included moments with father and son. You can also watch these scenes with the commentary from the director and writers again. They explain the why, how and the where in regards to the scenes being removed.

Lest we forget, this hotel room has previews including “Planet Terror”, “Rob Zombie’s Halloween”, “Death Proof” and “Black Sheep”. Fun times had by all.
Last Call
For some reason I expected very little from this Stephen King adaptation, but truthfully, I found it to be one of the better ones. Some clever casting in the form of John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson, with an inspired vision by Director Mikael Hafstrom giving life to room 1408 and creating a tense ghost story with a malevolent hotel room. Scary, surprising and quite a few inspired scares make this a must see for those willing to see a film that takes time to tell it’s story without a bunch of cheep boo scares. I wanna check in.
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT

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