Posted by drew On August - 17 - 20102,847 views

“It’s an evil fucking room.” This line is uttered relatively early on in 1408. The line is delivered with gusto by Samuel L. Jackson, proving once more that no-one can cuss quite as well as him. Strangely, his small role also proves that Jackson can channel Vincent Price better than anyone save perhaps Geoffrey Rush. But despite all that, this clever ghost story doesn’t belong to Mr. Jackson. Much of what is good about it boils down to a totally unhinged John Cusack, acting through most of the movie… totally by himself.

An evil room?

You see, the story (adapted from a Stephen King tale) involves Mike Enslin (Cusack), a skeptical writer of paranormal tourists. He’s tagged the titular room 1408 as the last chapter for his latest book. But what Enslin thinks will be a walk in the park ends up being a nosedive straight into hell. You see, room 1408 really is crawling with things that go bump in the night. And it wants to murder its latest tenant.

Haunted house tales are one of my favorite sub-genres of horror, one of the few I find truly scary. But they also have a really spotty history in film. Legendary films such the Haunting really elevate spook stories into an all-out confrontation with death and the unknown. Weaker films tend to turn them into showcases for cheesy special effects. This movie walks the line and succeeds in its juggling act.

While it is certainly packed with FX, they all exist to serve the story, never the ego of the filmmakers or the crew. So instead we’re allowed to focus on Cusack, driven slowly to the edge by the evil of room 1408. Despite Enslin being kind of a cynical asshole, Cusack lends him a twitchy charm that makes us root for him. This is enhanced by a truly heartbreaking back-story that is revealed over the course of the film.

It is that back-story that makes this more than a mere horror show. It’s about a man who’s lost his faith. Not just in God, but in humanity and in his own talent. Suddenly we understand why he’s wasted his life chasing ghosts – he’s looking for the light and the end of the tunnel. But when he finally finds that light, he discovers it’s fueled by hellfire.

I highly suggest this movie for fans looking for a little humanity with their shocks. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I rented it, but I was really surprised at how strong it was. Ghost stories with heart are few and far between. This makes room 1408 a nice place to visit, even if you wouldn’t want to live (or die) there.

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