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Movie Review

1408

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material including disturbing sequences of violence and terror, frightening images and language

Reviewed by: Misty Wagner
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults, Teens
Genre:
Thriller, Horror, Adaptation
Length:
1 hr. 34 min.
Year of Release:
2007
USA Release:
June 22, 2007 (wide—2,500 theaters)
Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

Ghosts in the Bible

How can we know there’s a God? Answer

What if the cosmos is all that there is? Answer

If God made everything, who made God? Answer

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

Does God feel our pain? Answer

The Origin of bad—How did bad things come about? Answer

What kind of world would you create? Answer

What does God say? Answer

Featuring: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Tony Shalhoub, Mary McCormack, Jasmine Jessica Anthony, Christopher Carey, Mary McCormack
Director: Mikael Håfström
Producer: Jeremy Steckler, Jake Myers, Lorenzo di Bonaventura
Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

“The Dolphin Hotel invites you to stay in any of its stunning rooms. Except one.”

“1408” is based on a short story, written by Stephen King, for the Everything’s Eventual published book of short stories. When King originally began “1408,” it was never meant to have an ending. “I wrote the first three or four pages as part of an appendix for my On Writing book, wanting to show readers how a story evolves from a first draft to a second,” King says. He goes on to talk about how, unexpectedly, the story “seduced” him. The entire story, in written form, is 38 pages.

Mike Enslin (John Cusack) is an author. He is best known for a series of books he has written on Haunted places. There is the 10 Nights in Haunted Graveyards, The 10 Nights in Haunted Mansions, The 10 Nights in Haunted Houses, and his current work: 10 Nights in Haunted Hotels. Mike doesn’t try very hard to show the world that he stands behind his work, or believes in what he is doing. Early in the film, on a few occasions, he makes comments about how this is where the money is. It is even mentioned, by a few people who have read his work, that his earlier unrecognized book was beautifully crafted and touching. Even so, Mike Enslin seems content in being miserable and bitter.

It is for his current project that Mike heads to New York City and into the Dolphin Hotel. His goal is to spend an entire night in room 1408, but when requesting these accomodations, the Hotel’s manager Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson) immediately shuts him down. It is with the help of his publisher’s attorney that he finally gets Olin to work with him.

Once Mike gets to the Dolphin, Olin tries very hard to persuade Mike to change his mind. He shares with him privileged knowledge of the 12 suicides and over 30 natural deaths, which seemed to occur each time a guest stayed in room 1408. He tells him bizarre effects that the room has had on his staff. He tells him anything that he can, to persuade Mike to upgrade to a different room or leave all together. When Olin finally consents to take Mike up to the 14th floor (which is actually the thirteenth floor), He even goes so far as to beg him to change his mind.

Obviously though, Mike goes anyway. If he didn’t, where would the story be?

Stephen King is a true craftsman, when it comes to weaving stories. His talents are nearly unmatched when it comes to metaphorically weaving entire story lines around abuse, addictions and tragedy. So much so, in fact, that quite often people don’t even see those connections.

When I first learned that the 38 page story of “1408” was being made into a movie, I couldn’t help but laugh. I knew that, whoever the screenplay writer was, he had a big job ahead of himself. It isn’t that the story alone wasn’t good. It’s a great tale. Unlike the majority of Stephen King’s works though, it lacked any real depth. The outcome though, the screenplay inspired by King’s Tale, is cleverly done. It isn’t perfect, and areas about it still felt lacking. Even so though, there is a metaphorical story here that anyone willing to look deeply can relate to. A story about loss and emptiness, later filled with bitterness and resentment because sometimes we are deluded into feeling life is safer that way. Not that I expected any less, but John Cusack does a great job in this almost entirely solo endeavor.

The Bad

Due to the graphic nature of this story’s plot, quite often there are flashes of graphic images from the deaths which occurred in room 1408. At times, the scene lingers on gruesome photographs from the crime scenes, other times these suicides and deaths are re-enacted. In a few instances, ghosts of past residents seem to appear in the room.

There are several scenes of human blood, both in real time, as well as flashbacks and photos. In one brief scene, the very ordinary hotel artwork transforms into more perverse versions of their scene.

Considering the film’s genre, the language was pretty mild. Don’t get me wrong, there is profanity used.

On several occasions, Mike talks about the non-existence of God. He bases this belief on a personal tragedy and proclaims twice that “No God would allow that to happen.

There is some sort of unexplained supernatural entity, which for many is automatically a cause for concern.

There are several “jump scenes,” this movie isn’t one for the weak of heart or easily scared.

During a very brief scene, when Mike first enters room 1408, he searches through the on screen television menu scanning the “Adult Entertainment.”

The Good

There is a scene in which Mike is told that he always has free will. When hearing this, he is told that in this instance it is to have the will to continue in this torture, or to die. This was likely one of the highlights for me, from the entire film. The under current of story, in this film, is one about healing. We all, from the hardness of life, are callused and bitter. If we aren’t, we at least, at some point had the choice to become so.

As Mike travels around, skeptically doing his job and believing that the lack of evidence for paranormal existence only proves his theory that there is no God. I found it fascinating to watch the journey which this story takes Mike Enslin on. To see his cold, hard exterior crumble as he realizes that saying something is—doesn’t make it so.

All things considered, I felt “1408” was fairly average. As is typical with most Cusack roles, there is dry humor in the most necessary of places, relieving tension and leaving it consistently entertaining. For a suspenseful/thriller/horror, “1408” does maintain a fairly clean set. The special affects are tasteful, for the most part, letting the scarier scenes rely more on suspense of brief flashes than gore. It is average for a PG-13 movie, of this genre, and I am thinking could maybe even be considered one of the better ones.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Minor


Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—Not that scary. I usually avoid movies of this genre but with all of the positive critic reviews and a non “R” rating, I decided to give “1408” a view. The theatre I was in was full to the brim with teens, and the reactions seemed to be mixed. “1408” builds tension well as it proceeds, seems to underwhelm at its core, and then pulls a twist for the ending. As most everyone knows from the trailer, no one survives more than an hour in room 1408, and the big question of course is what happens when that hour runs out. You’ll have to see “1408” to find out. On the positive side, “1408” is not filled with disturbing and gratuitous imagery and content. It is actually quite mild compared to horror classics like “The Sixth Sense.” So, if you’re just looking for entertainment that puts you on the edge of your seat a few times, “1408” delivers.
My Ratings: Average / 3½
—Todd Adams, age 39
Positive—I was never really a John Cusack fan, but “1408” is a bit of a surprise find. It’s about a skeptic writer who had made a decent living on disapproving the paranormal on haunted hotels, maybe due to a personal tragedy that allowed him to be this way. Upon receiving an anonymous post card from the Dolphin Hotel with a warning to not enter room 1408. Mike Enslin (Cusack) gets the reservation with the help of his publisher’s attorney after being repeatedly denied by the hotel manager, Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson). Reluctantly, Mr. Olin gave the key to Enslin and the real horror begins.

Unlike other horror of its genre, “1408” takes you on a psychological thrill ride. John Cusak gave a commendable performance and you feel for him, just when you think that the horror had ended like the fantasy journey in “The Wizard of Oz,” this is not. You will see ghosts and apparitions, hear voices, and feel the forces of the supernatural at work. One of the most unique thing about this horror film is the tender moments that comes and goes and pull us in is a rare gem. Now, I wanted to read Stephen King’s short story of the same name which this film was based on.

On a religious note, though, our protagonist is a disavow believers, in the end, the paranormal is there and cannot be disapprove. There are things that cannot be explained, and it points to a higher being at work. Science, facts, figures, and statistics can only give us technical data, but not the emotional, intangible force that surround us. [SPOILER: Our main character, Mike Enslin, may still believe it was all in his imaginations, but his mini tape recorder tells otherwise.]

“1408” is rated PG-13 and contains heavy violence but no gore, just enough to give the chill a drive. Profanity is abound, but I was too thrilled with the supernatural to really care, and it didn’t take away the story. This is a good chiller. I jumped a couple of times.
My Ratings: Average / 5
—Mang Yang, age 35
Positive—I loved this movie. It’s not probably in the best taste for a Christian, but it was still great. Pretty scary stuff for PG-13 rating. The only positive position in the movie is that John C. plays the role of a man with no-faith. He figures that IF God exists, then Ghosts or Spirits must be real. He sets out to prove that no Spirits exist so God must be real. By the end of the show he believes in Ghost/spirits and realizes that he has been stealing HOPE from people and thus he had lost hope.
My Ratings: Average / 5
—Fry, age 39
Positive—I think it’s a good movie because there are mention of faith, life after death (of a beautiful heaven). The main character is not an atheist but a skeptic, I feel like his travels to the haunted hotels are a quest to recover his faith. Also, in one of his supernatural experience the Samuel L. Jackson illusion tell him that people believe in ghosts, not for fun but, becuase of the prospect of something after death. This is a Hollywood horror film based on the short story of Stephen King, so treat it as a horror film… get the positive points and messages you won’t feel so negative then.
My Ratings: Average / 4½
—Cyril Thomas, age 28, Scotland
Positive—We watched this last night and it was really good. It was entertaining, with parts that might make you jump but weren’t really bloody/gory. There were brief images that depicted people who died, and you see them a couple of times. From a Christian view the element of “ghosts” may bother some as it initially did for me, but honestly I didn’t see this the same way as a genuine ghost movie, but more exploring the reality of evil. So actually, it made me think of things of the Lord but I can see how some would be offended. I also thought the raw, honesty of questioning God (negative or positive) is a good thing to provoke discussion (just my opinion) which you do find in this film.

Other things that struck me as offensive from a Christian standpoint were: There was swearing, including the Lord’s Name. Also, there was one small scene where no nudity was shown but there was pornographic movie titles that came onto the screen for a minute while the main character was looking for something to watch on TV. All I know is this movie was not intended to be Christian, so please don’t get upset that Stephen King didn’t align it with Scripture. I was pleasantly surprised but wish they had left out just a couple (literally) split seconds that weren’t necessary. All in all a good movie.
****SPOILER AHEAD****

Something else that really struck me as a good illustration is the hopelessness of his situation. No matter what he did, despite thinking he finally escaped, he always ended up back, NO escape/end to his torment. This made me think of this book 23 minutes in Hell I started reading. How utterly hopeless and lost the souls in hell are and how no matter what, there is no hope of escaping from the eternal torment—very thought provoking because of that. That’s just my two cents.
My Ratings: Average / 4
—Angelica Wilson, age 22
Neutral
Neutral—Didn’t find the movie to be as scary as I had expected, there were a few moments where you are on the edge of your seat, but overall not a true thriller. The language is mild, but present. Found the special effects to be lacking in today’s world. The majority of the movie is IN the room and at times, the story drags, and you hope for an ending—and soon.
My Ratings: Offensive / 3
—Kelly, age 33
Negative
Negative—“1408” was not really what I expected. I don’t think it’s a true thriller. The movie was slightly offensive, just the subject matter and theme. But there Ii was, ready for a good scary movie, and it just didn’t happen. Just when the suspense was at a climax, and it could have gotten really good, it kind of died off, and then picked up again and then faded. It was also REALLY hard to follow. I could not figure out what was happening. Which is okay, if it all kind of works out, but it never made sense; nothing was for sure, and I don’t think it was supposed to make sense, just be random and odd and exciting, which kind of bothered me.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Maggie, age 21
Comments from young people
Neutral—Although I LOVED watching the movie, I have to say it was “offensive” and give it a neutral because of the thoughts and opinions of one character (mainly towards the beginning) during the movie. Mike doesn’t seem to believe there is a God. His daughter dies, and he states that “No God would allow that to happen.” From a Christian perspective, this is very offensive, however, towards the end, he believes that he has been proven wrong. There are also a few mild scenes of blood and gore, but nothing too extreme. This is a pretty average (maybe better) PG-13 film as far as content goes.

On the plus side, this is definitely one of the best Stephen King movie adaptations ever made! I am an young movie viewer, I’ve seen many films, new and old, and this is one of the best. I truly enjoyed the movie. You’ll be on the edge of your seat the entire time, shock after shock. The movie does deliver some spooks, and you’ll never catch yourself looking at your watch.

Overall, I enjoyed “1408” very much, although there is some offensive content. I do recommend this movie for viewers who no the difference from right and wrong and are mature enough to handle watching a film of this genre.
My Ratings: Offensive / 5
—Jessaca, age 16
Positive—“1408,” was not bad. There were a few scenes that would make you jump. The thing that I thought was the worst was the blood coming out of the wall! Overall, there are some pictures of people that have died, with blood over them! But, not that scary. Yes, Christians this would be fine!
My Ratings: Average / 4½
—Kaitlin, age 12