Mark Reviews Movies


3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Mikael Håfström

Cast: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Mary McCormack, Jasmine Jessica Anthony, Tony Shalhoub

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

Running Time: 1:34

Release Date: 6/22/07

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Capsule review by Mark Dujsik

Stephen King might be the only contemporary popular writer whose work can be admired simply because it seems so much like the work of the author. Writer protagonists (usually dealing with some personal torment, of course), psychological breaks, and things that go bump in the night are either clichés are motifs, depending on whether or not you like his stuff.  I do, because his best works try to find the character level of the creepiness. And they can be really quite scary—not-sleeping-a-wink-because-a-shadow-just-moved-over-there scary. 1408 is genuinely creepy, focuses on its central character's inner turmoil, and is ambitious enough to almost fall completely apart by the end. It follows Mike Enslin (John Cusack), an author who writes reviews of supposedly haunted places, and his stay in room 1408 of New York City's Dolphin Hotel. The manager Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson) tells him 56 deaths have occurred in that room and, in a really fine dialogue-driven scene, tries to get him to stay out. Once inside, the skeptical Enslin begins to see plenty of things worth writing about, including ghosts recreating their deaths, mundane paintings becoming unnerving, a ledge that goes on forever, and an alarm clock that apparently counts down the time until his demise (and, in an amusing touch, plays "We've Only Just Begun"). The film is like an effective haunted house with one eerie set piece following another, and director Mikael Håfström goes for atmosphere and tension instead of blood and guts. Flashbacks showing Enslin's past with his wife (Mary McCormack) and now-deceased daughter (Jasmine Jessica Anthony) become the real demons, and that portrayal of a man who has yet to come to terms with his own grief makes up for the crazy, perplexing inverted labyrinth of a finale.

Copyright © 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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