Reed Alexander's Horror Review of '1408' (2007)
Surprisingly a lot for a simple concept
I'm actually pretty impressed with what they do in this movie with such a simple concept. The whole movie is just a room with a spoooooooky story. That's it. But this movie does more with that than most haunted house movies do with a twenty minute exposition on the haunted house's origins. They do give you a little bit, just enough, explaining that dozens of people have died in room 1408, but that's it. The rest of the movie is just the room torturing the shit out of Cusak's character Mike Enslin. That's it. No real motivation, no "bad ghost," as Samuel L. Jackson puts it, it's just an evil fucking room. It doesn't really exist for a reason, it doesn't really have a motivation, it just wants to torture the inhabitance. Sure, there is a sort of motivation explained later, but that's more about how Mike ended up in the room and less about the room itself. And holey shit, this room is fucking deranged.
There is a bone I have to pick with this movie, though. There is a serious undertone of god punishing Mike's character for being an atheist. Some of the subtext of this movie is that Mike is being punished for exposing haunted hotels as frauds. I'm sorry, but what the fuck is wrong with that? Exposing fraud doesn't disprove the supernatural, it just disproves the fraud. You can clearly tell that Mike desperately wants to believe in the supernatural, but he's just been burned so many times he's become jaded. He's even cool about it, still recommending the frauds for tourism, even after exposing them. He even states that every place he's ever written about gets a boost in business, so he's even helping them.
A lot of this stems from Mike's motivations. Mike lost a daughter. This cements his atheism as why would a loving god kill a child for no reason. Indeed, why would a loving god torture a guy for exposing frauds. So it really seems like Mike is a decent guy and god is the asshole in this scenario. So the crux of the plot is even kinda bullshit. Then again, the general unfairness of the circumstances really makes it more terrifying. You genuinely feel for Mike and want him to survive. That just makes for good horror. So maybe god being a total dick was intentional in this movie. Still, I can't help but groan at the idea that Mike is being tortured for being an Atheist. It's just sanctimonious.
But let's talk about the atmosphere. It's really quite brilliant. There's nothing more than the room, but every stage of torture the room puts Mike through really gives it a sense of life. The room becomes a living thing. It even makes the set claustrophobic after a while. And importantly, the room doesn't start off claustrophobic, it becomes claustrophobic the longer Mike is stuck in it. It has serious cabin fever vibes.
Of course, the acting is pretty fucking solid. It's Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson. Even at their worst, it would still be good enough for horror. They also had a surprising amount of chemistry together. Something you wouldn't expect in the movie.
I think at this point, 1408 (2007) can be considered a horror classic. That means mandatory viewing for all Horror Heads. But honestly, it's good enough for general adult audiences.
What the fuck is the original ending of this movie? When I first watched it, there were something like three alternative endings, in which most of them Mike dies. And to be honest, that's the ending the movie deserves. It gives Mike's sacrifice at the end real meaning, destroying the room even at the cost of his own life. Hell, there's really no way he even should have survived it. He got hit by a blowback backdraft. That would have incinerated him. Full body burns, minimum. That and the plot demanded that he really shouldn't have survived. But for some reason, the ending they went with for streaming was that happy squishy ending where Mike survives and gets back together with his wife. What the actual fuck is that limp bullshit right there. It really castrates the feel of the movie, that the scenario is unsurvivable.
All the same, this is a fantastic movie and you should give it a shot. Honestly, it should be on my all-time top horror list, but I forgot to put it up there until having just watched it again.
About the Creator
I'm the foulmouthed horror movie critic. I post new reviews every Sunday, so stay tuned =D
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