Directed by Mikael Håfström [Other horror films: Skuggornas hus (1996), Strandvaskaren (2004), The Rite (2011)]
Based on a short story by Stephen King (which is around 53 pages in the copy of Everything’s Eventual that I own), this film is a piece of trash. The original story is great, fantastic, even, but this adaptation was way too Hollywood to have any real chance at matching the uneasy atmosphere of the story.
For Hollywood horror, 1408’s okay. Here’s the problem: the short story is virtually perfect, and if they had wanted to make a movie based directly off the story, they probably could have done it in a 45 minute short, with three actors. They didn’t need to add in a mentions of Mike’s father, or have his ex-wife appear, or have their ghostly daughter appear (in fact, no daughter is even mentioned in the short story whatsoever), any of that.
It’s no surprise they added the dead daughter to the story though – see, it makes for an emotional scene when Mike is hugging his long-dead daughter, only to have her crumble before his eyes (he knew it wasn’t really his daughter, but of course he gave into the temptation to touch her), and then that fantastic conclusion with his ex-wife and him hearing their daughter on the tape recorder is oh so god-damned emotional too, right?
Bangs head against desk
Listen, the original King short story is great. At just over 50 pages, it’s not near as short as some of his other stories, but there’s a palpable sense of unease during the whole of the hotel stay, and while this movie included some of it (such as the “Even if you leave this room, you can never leave this room” line and referenced the “My brother was actually eaten by wolves one winter on the Connecticut turnpike” line), they threw in so much utterly ridiculous and pointless fodder as to render the actually effectively spooky stuff moot.
Such as that fake-out ending. You know, it seems that he makes it out of the room, he actually imagined the whole thing while unconscious from that surfing mishap at the beginning of the film, and all is well until – here’s a shocker – he’s still in the room. He never got out. It was an illusion (like most everything else the room does).
Bangs head on desk
Wow, Hollywood, that’s original.
I liked John Cusack in this role, and actually, Samuel L. Jackson as Olin wasn’t bad either. And shout-out to Drew Powell (Butch from Gotham), who had a handful of small appearances here. But with the story as butchered as it was, Cusack’s performance here doesn’t save anything.
Had I not read the story before watching the film, it’s possible more of this might have impressed me. Honestly, though, even that might be a stretch, because this movie is so utterly generic and as unsurprising as you could possibly imagine.
I get it, a 40-minute movie couldn’t be released in theaters, and Samuel L. Jackson or John Cusack probably wouldn’t have signed on for it, but would you rather have a good movie that’s short or a generic, glossy production that looks nice but has no substance?
From that stupid predictably fake-out ending that anyone who has ever seen a movie saw coming from a mile away to the whole needless addition to the daughter, I can’t think of a single good reason to recommend 1408. Read the story; throw this away.